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In a chaotic week for the Capitals, T.J. Oshie gives Washington something to rally around

T.J. Oshie recorded a hat trick one day after the death of his father. (Bruce Bennett/Pool/AP)

There was T.J. Oshie, in the middle of the big group hug that formed near the Washington Capitals’ bench Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden. His teammates were jumping around him and patting the winger on the head. He wiped away tears as he sat down, an emotional moment that came after Oshie completed a hat trick in his first game since the death of his father.

It has been a turbulent week for Washington. Tom Wilson was again in the spotlight for his on-ice behavior. There have been injury concerns, including with captain Alex Ovechkin. Disciplinary issues, too. But just as the hat trick meant something to Oshie, center Nic Dowd said, it could mean something to the team, too.

“Yeah, I definitely think so,” Dowd said. “The way that we started the game obviously pulled guys together, and then everybody that was asked answered the bell. That brings the team closer together as a whole. It was such an emotional night for T.J.”

The Capitals (34-14-5, 73 points) were off Thursday before they face the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday and Saturday and then wrap up the regular season Tuesday against the Boston Bruins. All three games will be at Capital One Arena.

“It’s been a hectic week for us, emotional with Osh and other things going on,” center Lars Eller said Wednesday, “but ... it was real strong of us to go in and get two points out of the [Monday] game, considering we were playing at some period of the game with eight or nine forwards with a decimated roster in a tough situation.”

The Capitals played without Oshie on Monday night, when they also were missing center Evgeny Kuznetsov and goaltender Ilya Samsonov, who both sat after they were late to a team function. Justin Schultz, who was dealing with a lingering lower-body injury, was a late scratch.

Ovechkin and defenseman John Carlson, who were recovering from lower-body injuries, both returned for Washington, but Ovechkin left the game after his first shift. His abrupt exit, though, was rapidly overshadowed by Wilson’s altercation with Pavel Buchnevich and Artemi Panarin in the second period.

Panarin was later ruled out for the rest of New York’s season with a lower-body injury. And Wilson, consistently a lightning rod in the NHL, sparked another conversation about his controversial play.

After Washington’s 6-3 win, the Capitals’ Twitter account posted — and then deleted — a meme with Wilson’s picture and the words: “atCapitals chooses: Violence,” drawing widespread rebuke.

The chaos spilled into Tuesday, when the NHL’s Department of Player Safety fined — but did not suspend — Wilson for roughing Buchnevich, causing another uproar.

Kuznetsov was placed on the league’s covid-19 list Tuesday night, the second time this season he has landed there. He missed eight games in late January and early February and later confirmed he had experienced coronavirus symptoms.

On Tuesday night, the Rangers released a strongly worded statement, describing the Wilson incident as a “horrifying act of violence” and calling for George Parros, the head of the Department of Player Safety, to lose his job.

Wednesday brought still more news for both the Capitals and the Rangers. Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette said Kuznetsov and Samsonov remained unavailable. And the Rangers fired general manager Jeff Gorton and team president John Davidson, promoting Chris Drury to fill both positions.

All of that was before a game that saw a full-on line brawl at center ice moments after the opening faceoff. Wilson left the game early with what was called an upper-body injury. Buchnevich was ejected for cross-checking Anthony Mantha across the face, and on Thursday he was given a one-game suspension.

Oshie, who announced his father’s death on Twitter earlier in the week, did not speak with reporters after the game; Laviolette said he had insisted on playing.

“I thought our guys really hung together and stuck together, did what we needed to do and got to the two points and heading home,” Laviolette said. “I think the way we just stuck up for each other and played for each other the entire night, I thought we did a good job just staying disciplined as well. It was the game that was kind of dealt to us, and I thought our guys did a terrific job with it.”

Read more on the Washington Capitals:

T.J. Oshie’s hat trick gives Capitals final say in fight-filled win over Rangers

Tom Wilson fined but not suspended for altercation; Rangers decry ‘horrifying act of violence’

Svrluga: Most of Tom Wilson’s play is above board. His latest controversy is beneath him.

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