“After the play, I would have never thought that all this would have blown up,” Wilson said Friday, describing the scrum publicly for the first time. “It seemed [like a] fairly routine hockey scrum to me and I think that was kind of the feeling from both players in the [penalty] box, and then obviously it took on a new life after the game.”
The fine — with no suspension — handed down by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety was for roughing Buchnevich. Panarin was later ruled out for the final three games of New York’s season with a lower-body injury.
“Their guy goes to our net and kicks at our goalie and goes in there with his stick,” Wilson said of Buchnevich. “At a young age in hockey, you’re taught to stand up for your goalie, so that’s what I was doing. From there, you have guys jumping on your back, and I think anybody’s first reaction would try just to throw them off you and wrestle them down to the ice. That’s what I thought about it at the time.”
In the aftermath of the altercation and the fine, there was an uproar from all facets of the hockey world, calling Wilson’s actions dangerous, reckless and similar to other plays from his suspension-filled past.
Wilson has been suspended five times in his eight-year NHL career, including once this season. He was suspended seven games in March for boarding Boston’s Brandon Carlo. None of the five suspensions were related to post-whistle interactions.
“I didn’t think too much of it at the time,” Wilson said. “Nothing I say right now is going to change anybody’s opinion; they’ve already made that up, and I’ve just got to keep moving forward.”
Asked whether he would change anything about his part in the scrum, Wilson said it is “a lot easier to watch everything in slow motion after the fact and dissect every tenth of a second.”
He said he was not initially aware that it was Panarin who had jumped on his back. He has since reached out to the Russian star and said he is glad he is doing well.
“Hockey scrums, anyone that’s been in one, they’re crazy,” Wilson said. “There’s sticks. There’s skates. By the end of the scrum, I’m holding my head trying not to get cut by a skate. I’m getting punched in every direction. There’s a lot going on, so I don’t think it’s fair to go back and say maybe I would have changed this. It’s a hectic moment.”
Capitals Coach Peter Laviolette said Tuesday that he had a discussion with Wilson about the altercation. His message to Wilson: Since he is such a “big, strong” player, he has to be careful when he gets engaged in scrums.
“I think just with the attention on him he gets looked at in a certain way,” 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.”
All eyes were on Wilson again in Wednesday’s 4-2 win against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Wilson and five of his teammates fought their Rangers counterparts early in the game, answering for Wilson’s actions Monday. A line brawl occurred one second after the opening faceoff, and three more fights occurred in the next 4:13.
Wilson suffered an upper-body injury in the first period of Wednesday’s game and did not return. He was back in the lineup Friday night against Philadelphia. He had 13 goals and 20 assists in 44 games entering Friday.
“That’s the game we’re playing, and you go home in the offseason and you try and get strong, you try and get fast,” Wilson said. “There’s guys of all different shapes and sizes that play the game of hockey. I’m 6-4, 225, and I guess Lavi’s point is, ‘You have to be aware of that.’ ”