Wilson was at the heart of a scrum that came with just over 12 minutes left in the second period at Madison Square Garden. Buchnevich tried to hammer the puck home in front, jamming at Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek, before falling facedown on the ice in the battle for the puck. Wilson then dealt a blow to the back of Buchnevich’s head. That was the reason for the fine.
The Rangers’ Ryan Strome pulled Wilson off Buchnevich, and the fracas intensified. New York star Artemi Panarin got on Wilson’s back to try to rip him away from Strome. Wilson and Panarin then tussled before Wilson dragged Panarin to the ice twice.
“I think the message to Tom was he’s big, he’s strong and when he gets into scrums and he wrestles, you’ve to be careful because, obviously, I think just with the attention on him he gets looked at in a certain way,” Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette said. “So he’s got to play his game. He has to be hard to play against, he has to be physical, but in the same sense, he’s got to know that eyes are on him.”
Wilson, who took his jersey off and appeared to flex in the penalty box as the referees handed out penalties, got a 10-minute misconduct and four minutes for roughing. Panarin and Buchnevich each got two minutes for roughing. Panarin was later ruled out for the rest of the game with a lower-body injury, and Rangers Coach David Quinn said Tuesday that Panarin won’t play in New York’s final three games.
“For the actual scrum itself, I don’t think there is any malicious intent,” Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon said. “All the guys had their gloves on still. I think if Willy really wanted to hurt somebody, he could have done that, you know? … He’s aware of things, and I know he’s trying his best and him as a bigger guy it is tough when you are in a scrum like that.”
The Rangers felt otherwise.
“There are lines that can’t be crossed in this game,” Quinn said after the game. “To me it’s just zero respect for the game in general. You’ve got one of the star players in the league now who could have gotten seriously, seriously hurt in that incident. You saw what happened, and it happens time and time again with him. It’s just totally unnecessary.”
In a statement Tuesday, the Rangers said they are “extremely disappointed” that Wilson was not suspended for “his horrifying act of violence” and called for George Parros, a former NHL enforcer now in charge of the Department of Player Safety, to lose his job.
“Wilson is a repeat offender with a long history of these type of acts and we find it shocking that the NHL and their Department of Player Safety failed to take the appropriate action and suspend him indefinitely,” the Rangers added. “... We view this as a dereliction of duty by NHL head of player safety, George Parros, and believe he is unfit to continue in his current role.”
The Capitals declined to comment on the Rangers’ statement.
Wilson has a long history with the Department of Player Safety. He has been suspended five times in his eight-season career, including once this year: He was suspended seven games for boarding Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo in March.
Before that incident, it had been some time since his most recent suspension. He was disciplined in 2018 for a preseason hit on St. Louis forward Oskar Sundqvist. Wilson’s shoulder collided with Sundqvist’s head at center ice, and he was handed a 20-game suspension. After his initial ban was upheld by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman in an appeal hearing, it was reduced to 14 games by an arbitrator.
Wilson did not appeal the Carlo suspension and served the full seven games. He forfeited $311,781.61; that money is sent to the NHL’s Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund. Wilson has six goals, including an empty-netter Monday night, and nine assists in 22 games since returning from the suspension.
Wilson was a replacement alternate captain for Washington’s game against Pittsburgh on Saturday. It was the first time Wilson wore the “A” patch on his jersey in a regular season game. Captain Alex Ovechkin and defenseman John Carlson were out because of lower-body injuries.
Ovechkin ‘unlikely’ to play Wednesday; Kuznetsov in covid protocol
Ovechkin and Carlson returned Monday night, but Ovechkin took just one shift before leaving the game. Laviolette said Ovechkin didn’t feel “comfortable” and decided to “call it off.” Ovechkin has missed the majority of the Capitals’ past five games.
Laviolette said Tuesday that Ovechkin is “unlikely” to play Wednesday against the Rangers. He added that the level of caution the Capitals are taking with his injury “remains high.”
“Where it goes through the end of the year, the most important thing is the playoffs and they’re a ways away,” Laviolette said. “I still feel we’re in good shape for that.”
Defenseman Justin Schultz missed Monday’s game with a lower-body injury and is day-to-day. He has missed four of the past seven games.
Forward T.J. Oshie missed Monday’s game because of personal reasons. On Tuesday, Oshie said on Twitter that his father, Tim, had died.
“I’ve texted with him a couple times to see how he’s doing, and it’s really tough,” Laviolette said. “It’s sad. It’s very sad when you lose somebody, and it was great that he got to be there with his dad, with Coach, at the end, and we wish the Oshie family peace. It’s just a real sad thing.”
Center Evgeny Kuznetsov and goaltender Ilya Samsonov were held out of Monday’s game because they were late to a team function. It remains unclear whether they will be available Wednesday. Laviolette said the team is “working through things inside the room.”
Being placed on the covid-related absences list does not necessarily mean a player has tested positive. Multiple players and coaches have experienced false positives, and contact tracing is part of the process, too.
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