Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson, whose extensive history of dangerous plays and suspensions have made him one of the NHL’s most controversial players, was back in the spotlight at Madison Square Garden on Monday night, this time for inciting a massive brawl against the New York Rangers.
The incident occurred midway through the second period shortly after Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek saved a Rangers shot. With several players jostling in the crease, Wilson began punching Pavel Buchnevich, who was facedown on the ice, in the back of his head. In the ensuing shoving, Wilson threw Artemi Panarin to the ice multiple times.
Panarin left the game after the brawl with what the team said was a lower-body injury and did not return. Later in the night, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman learned the preliminary belief is that Panarin will not play in the Rangers’ three remaining games this season.
Wilson was assessed four minutes in penalties for roughing along with a 10-minute misconduct. Wilson flexed after making his way to the penalty box, an apparent show of pride in his actions. Buchnevich and Panarin were both given two-minute roughing minors.
“I figured you should have some more respect for the game and for the players,” Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad said after the game. “I don’t honestly know where to start. It’s just there’s zero respect. I don’t know why I’m surprised, just horrible.”
Rangers coach David Quinn said that Panarin was fine after the game but added that Wilson crossed the line with his actions.
“We all saw it. There are lines that can’t be crossed in this game and it’s just zero respect to the game in general,” Quinn said. “You have one of the star players in this league now, who could have got seriously hurt in that incident. You saw what happened. And you know, it happens time and time again with him. It’s just totally unnecessary.”
Wilson’s history of suspensions stemming from illegal in-game actions is long.
Back in March, he was suspended for the fifth time since 2017, receiving seven games for boarding Boston Bruins defenceman Brandon Carlo, who spent the night in a hospital because of it.
Perhaps most infamously, in 2018, Wilson was suspended 20 regular-season games because of an illegal hit to the head of Oskar Sundqvist during a pre-season game against the St. Louis Blues. After Wilson’s initial appeal to reduce the suspension was upheld by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, a final appeal with a neutral arbitrator reduced the punishment to 14 games.
The 27-year-old now been suspended for a combined 30 games (pre-season, regular season and playoffs) and has forfeited $1.291,456.39 in salary during his career.
The NHL has not said at this time if a hearing will be held to determine if Wilson’s actions against the Rangers Monday will receive further punishment.