Tensions were understandably high between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers following Monday night’s fracas involving the Capitals’ Tom Wilson.
The two teams did not waste much time trying to settle the score in their rematch at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, as six fights occurred in the game’s first five minutes.
Right after the puck dropped, all three members of the Capitals’ fourth line – Garnet Hathaway, Nic Dowd and Carl Hagelin – dropped the gloves with Rangers counterparts Colin Blackwell, Phillip Di Giuseppe and Kevin Rooney.
Next up on the fight card was the main event, as the Rangers’ Brendan Smith pounced on Wilson during the tough guy’s first shift on the ice. Smith was assessed 12 minutes in instigator penalties for starting the fight.
Later in the first period, the Capitals’ Michael Raffl fought the Rangers’ Anthony Bitetto right after a faceoff. When they lined up to drop the puck again, the Capitals’ Lars Eller then fought the Rangers’ Ryan Strome.
It led to a comical scene in the penalty box, especially for the Capitals who were already entering this game quite shorthanded at forward.
Before the period was through, Wilson and Rooney were assessed 10-minute misconduct penalties. The first period ended with 100 combined penalty minutes.
The Capitals announced around the start of the second period that Wilson would miss the remainder of the game due to an “upper body” injury.
Wilson’s absence from the remainder of the game did not quell the bad feelings, though. In the second period, the Rangers’ Pavel Buchnevich received a five-minute major penalty and was ejected for a cross-check to the head of the Capitals’ Anthony Mantha.
Later in the second period, Capitals defenseman Zdeno Chara was assessed a 10-minute misconduct penalty when he approached the Rangers bench and exchanged words with Smith, who was sitting on the bench.
Strome also earned a 10-minute misconduct in the third period after getting called for a tripping penalty.
The gong show Wednesday of course was set up by what happened Monday – and by what didn’t happen after.
Wilson touched off a big scrum Monday, for which he was fined $5,000 for roughing tBuchnevich – whom was face-down on the ice when he was punched in the back by Wilson. But Wilson was not suspended for the melee that also saw him body slam Artemi Panarin to the ice. The Rangers star forward suffered an injury that will see him miss the rest of the season.
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The Rangers issued a scathing statement Tuesday, ripping the NHL Department of Player Safety for not suspending Wilson and going so far as to say player safety head George Parros was “unfit to continue in his current role.”
Adding to the drama entering the game, the Rangers fired team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton earlier Wednesday after they were officially eliminated from playoff contention Monday.