Tom Wilson had just started proudly addressing reporters Tuesday night when, quite suddenly, he couldn’t see.
Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals’ undisputed star and captain, led the 6-2 thrashing of the New York Islanders at Verizon Center, a victory Coach Adam Oates called Washington’s most complete of the season, by scoring twice on the power play in his return from a shoulder injury. But Ovechkin also finished it off – not only by setting up Wilson late in the third period for what became Wilson’s first NHL goal, but by walloping him with a shaving-cream pie afterward.
“What a player; what a guy,” Wilson said. “Pretty cool to have him pass me my first one.”
Wilson, 19, is among the most interesting Capitals to watch this year. The debate before the season: Send him back to junior hockey, where he would likely lead his team’s forwards in minutes played and would experience all aspects of the game – power play, penalty kill – or keep him in the NHL, where he would almost certainly play on the fourth line. Through 15 games, he is averaging 7 minutes, 21 seconds of ice time, playing a valuable role but learning as much by watching as by doing..
He is also proving to the Capitals that keeping him might have been the right call.
“He deserves to be here,” Ovechkin said.
Wilson’s contributions Tuesday night began with a rush that helped set up a slap-shot goal from defenseman Alexander Urbom – Urbom’s first goal as a Capital and third in the NHL. And with the game well in hand, Oates decided to reward him by giving him a shift on the power play in the third period.
“He’s had a lot of chances,” Oates said. “You don’t get that many minutes, and because of the score, I gave him a chance to go out there. I didn’t expect it to go in that way. Great for him. He made a great play on Urb’s goal. He’s done a lot of good things for us, and obviously very happy for him to get that first one.”
Oates was also impressed with Wilson’s maturity late in the game, when Islanders’ tough guy Matt Carkner tried to engage him in a bit of a fight. With seven seconds left, Carkner hit Wilson, then cross-checked him near his face.
“I wasn’t going to get my first Gordie Howe [hat trick] against him,” Wilson said, referring to the nickname when a player records a goal, an assist and a fight in one game. “He’s a pretty tough character.”
That’s exactly the response Oates wanted.
“No reason to fight there,” Oates said. “Carkner’s [ticked] off. He wants to stir it up. That’s part of what ends a game. No reason to take it to the next level. Smart play.”
The only down side to Wilson’s night: All that shaving cream from Ovechkin left his eyes stinging so much that he had to be helped from the dressing room so he could go wash his face before returning, red-eyed but smiling.
“I couldn’t see for a little bit there,” Wilson said. “I’ll definitely remember that.”
Here’s last night’s game story, which somehow has no mention of Braden Holtby’s 30-save night.