Tom Wilson

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Trotz, Caps Players Come to Wilson’s Defense

May 02, 2018 - 3:05 pm
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PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - For the second time in as many games, Washington forward Tom Wilson is at the center of a controversial hit that injured a Pittsburgh player.

The hit Tuesday night’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal left Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese with a concussion and a broken jaw, which will require surgery.  

“I was surprised that the player has the injury that he does,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Wednesday. “I don’t know if they banged heads but, to me, it looked body on body.”

Wilson received scrutiny for a blind, shoulder-to-head hit on Pittsburgh defenseman Brian Dumoulin in Game 2.

After Tuesday’s loss, Pittsburgh players seemed to be more disturbed with Wilson laughing on the bench after the hit than with the hit itself.

“He’s one of those guys that can get under an opponent’s skin,” Washington forward Brett Connolly said. “I think he’s just laughing because the crowd’s booing him and it’s just heat of the moment. I think it's just kind of a reaction for him to kind of smile and get them more pissed off."

Trotz said that he was upset that Pittsburgh players assumed Wilson was mocking one of their teammates.

“19,000 people were booing him and something funny was said on the bench and that’s why he was smiling,” he added. “I do take a little bit of offense, and I do understand what is coming out of the Penguins locker room, but that was not the case. He’s very respectful.

Connolly thought the hit inspired his team.

“You never want to see an opposing player get hurt,” he said. “It’s a physical game in the playoffs. That may have changed the game a little bit for us. I think we really rallied around that and they got off their game a little bit.”

The NHL announced Wednesday morning that Wilson would have a phone hearing with the League’s Department of Player Safety, meaning that a suspension is possible. It would be the third suspension of Wilson’s career.

“He always tries to work on the part of the game that still allows him to be what he is, but be in the confines of all the rules,” Trotz said. “He keeps trying to adjust and to grow as a player.”

It is clear that the Pittsburgh-Washington rivalry is taking a turn for the uglier in this series.

On top of the Wilson hits, there are some on the Washington side who thought that Penguins captain Sidney Crosby spat in the direction of Capitals players during a third period scrum.

“You’d have to ask him. It’s an emotional time of the year, especially with these two teams. I don’t think he actually spit. I don’t think that’s his character and I don’t think he’d go that far.”

“I think the video speaks for itself,” Trotz said.

This is the third straight year the rivals have met in the postseason and it appears the familiarity is breeding contempt.

“You start adding up those games, you’ve got half a season against the same opponent,” Trotz said. And a lot of times the matchups are very similar. These are elite athletes, they’re very competitive and they don’t want to give up an inch. When you’re going 20-30 times against the same opponent, it becomes unfriendly.”​

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