Wilson, the polarizing executive of the Washington Capitals, will be the center of attention Wednesday night, when the Capitals visit the Rangers in the final game of the season between the two longtime rivals. (The puck falls during the Rangers-Capitals clash at 7 p.m. ET – watch the game on NHL Live.)
The rivalry escalated in Game 1 of the two-game series in New York on Monday night, when Wilson took four penalties and added a goal into an empty net to end the Capitals’ 6-3 win.
Wilson’s goal – scored with 1:26 left and minutes after the Rangers (26-21-6, 58 points) were officially eliminated from the playoffs due to the Boston Bruins’ 3-0 win over the Devils of New Jersey – – was an afterthought after a second period streak in net for the Capitals.
Rangers left winger Pavel Buchnevich attempted to put the puck in the net during a battle in the enclosure before falling to the ice, where Wilson – who was in the penalty area for being brutal when Mika Zibanejad scored 2:30 in the second – hit. Buchnevich on the back of the head.
Ryan Strome pulled Wilson out of Buchnevich, and Artemi Panarin arrived to try to stop Wilson from hitting Strome. Wilson pulled off Panarin’s helmet dragging him across the ice and pushed him aside as Panarin tried to get up.
“I thought it was just a scrum,” Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said Monday night. “Physical game. There was something originally going on with the goalie and a scramble against the goalie. We brought in a group of players. This happens often. “
Panarin didn’t play the rest of the game with what Rangers called a lower body injury. Head coach David Quinn said on Tuesday that Panarin would not play in Rangers’ last three games.
Wilson – who was suspended seven games earlier this season for boarding the Boston Bruins’ Brandon Carlo and missed 30 games in his eight-year career on disciplinary grounds – was sentenced to 14 minutes in the wake of the ‘altercation. On Tuesday, the NHL fined Wilson $ 5,000, the maximum allowed by the collective agreement, for hitting Buchnevich.
“I think that’s a joke, to be honest with you,” Strome said after learning of Wilson’s fine after practice on Tuesday. “A defenseless player at Panarin without a helmet – a superstar of our league. I think this is a joke. “
Quinn noted that the Rangers don’t have a police type like Wilson and that it would be difficult to retaliate by starting a brawl on Wednesday.
“This is who we are,” Quinn said. “This is who we are. This is what we have. And we’re going to have to deal with it. “
Beyond all the drama Wilson generated, there is a pivotal game for the Capitals (33-14-5, 71 points), who entered a tie for first place on Tuesday with the Pittsburgh Penguins (34-16 -3, 71 points) in the East Division. The Capitals are just three points ahead of the third-placed Boston Bruins (31-14-6, 68 points). The Penguins were scheduled to visit the Philadelphia Flyers and the Bruins were scheduled to visit the Devils on Tuesday night.
Alex Ovechkin, who returned on Monday after missing four games with a lower-body injury, played just 39 seconds against the Rangers before leaving. He did not practice on Tuesday.
This preview story was provided by Field Level Media.