May 7 (UPI) — Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson said he reached out to New York Rangers star Artemi Panarin in the aftermath of a controversial incident between the players earlier this week.
Speaking for the first time since a scuffle against the Rangers on Monday that left Panarin injured, Wilson told reporters Friday he is good to go after sustaining an upper-body injury and glad Panarin is doing better.
“I’m feeling good,” said Wilson, who appeared to have cuts on his right hand from a fight with Rangers defenseman Brendan Smith on Wednesday night. “I’m glad Panarin is doing well. He’s better. I reached out to him, and that’s really what matters right now.”
Wilson drew widespread criticism for his role in Monday’s scrum. He was fined $5,000 for punching Pavel Buchnevich in the back of the head while he was defenseless on the ice. Moments later, Wilson tossed Panarin to the ice, causing him to miss the final three games of the season due to a lower-body injury.
The NHL decided against suspending Wilson for his actions, a decision that received immediate backlash from the Rangers organization and led to six separate fights in a rematch between the clubs Wednesday.
In a statement released Tuesday, the Rangers called for the firing of Department of Player Safety head George Parros. The NHL responded by fining the Rangers $250,000 on Thursday for publicly criticizing a league official.
Wilson, who has previously watched film with Parros to learn how to keep his physical style of play without crossing the line, said he doesn’t believe Monday’s events were out of the ordinary.
“It seemed [like a] fairly routine hockey scrum to me, and I think that was kind of the feeling from both players in the box. And then obviously it took on a new life after the game,” Wilson said. “Those scrums are chaotic and there’s lots of stuff going on, but I didn’t think too much of it at the time.”
Wilson was handed two roughing penalties and a 10-minute misconduct after the scrum. After the league announced his $5,000 fine with no hearing or suspension, the Rangers called it a “dereliction of duty” that Parros didn’t suspend Wilson indefinitely.
“After the play, I would have never thought that all this would have blown up,” Wilson said. “Nothing I say right now is going to change anybody’s opinion. They’ve already made that up, and I’ve just got to keep moving forward.”
Wilson, listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, has been suspended five times in his career, including a seven-game ban in March for boarding Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo.
Until boarding Carlo earlier this year, Wilson hadn’t committed any offenses worth a hearing with the NHL since September 2018, when he received a 20-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. That ban was later reduced to 14 games by an arbitrator after he had already served 16.
“He gets looked at in a certain way,” Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said. “He has to play his game, he has to be hard to play against, he has to be physical. But in the same sense, he’s got to know that eyes are on him as well.”