The dust has finally settled after a week that saw the rivalry between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers taken to new heights Monday night thanks to Tom Wilson’s role in a post-whistle skirmish.
“It seemed like a fairly routine hockey scrum to me,” Wilson said Friday on a video call with reporters.
Wilson was handed a league-maximum $5,000 fine Tuesday for roughing Pavel Buchnevich but escaped a fine or suspension for aggressively throwing Artemi Panarin, whose helmet had been knocked off, down to the ice.
The Rangers confirmed Panarin would miss the remainder of the regular season as a result of the incident and it led to a heated start to the rematch at Madison Square Garden that occurred two nights later.
The two teams combined for six fighting majors and 72 total penalty minutes within the opening five minutes of the first period. Wilson picked up his fourth fighting major of the season and left the game with an upper-body injury.
Wilson has an extensive history of supplemental discipline for playing on the edge and often crossing the line, so it was little surprise some hockey fans and certain media members sprayed vitriol towards the 27-year-old Toronto native on social media.
“It’s obviously been a crazy couple days,” Wilson said. “The good thing about social media is you’re able to close it and go about your life and worry about playing hockey and worry about what’s going on in this (locker)room.”
Wilson said he never would’ve imagined that particular scrum causing the reaction it ultimately did.
From Wilson’s perspective: “Their guy goes to our net and kicks at our goalie and goes in there with his stick and at a young age in hockey you’re taught to stand up for your goalie so that’s what I was doing. And from there you have guys jumping on your back I think anybody’s first reaction would be to try to throw them off you and wrestle them down to the ice. That’s what I thought about it at the time. Obviously those scrums are chaotic and there’s lots of stuff going on but I didn’t think too much of it at the time.”
The Rangers were fined $250,000 for a public statement criticizing Department of Player Safety head George Parros and the decision not to suspend Wilson.
New York had its power-play unit, primarily skill players, on the ice at the time of the scrum.
“I didn’t want to drop my gloves,” Wilson explained. “That wasn’t really an option because of who they had out there so I tried to wrestle the guy down. It was a crazy moment but one that’s not rare to happen in a hockey game. That stuff happens. We’ve seen it in games since (Monday) and I’m trying to move on from it. I’m glad Panarin is doing well.”
Wilson said he reached out to Panarin following the game via text message to check in on the Rangers star forward.
Buchnevich ended up receiving a one-game suspension for high-sticking Capitals forward Anthony Mantha in Wednesday’s game, which indirectly led to further criticism of Wilson online.
“Nothing I say right now is going to change anybody’s opinion,” Wilson said. “They’ve already made that up and I’ve just got to keep moving forward.”