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Capitals' Tom Wilson explains 'bluff' hit on Conor Sheary

Capitals' Tom Wilson explains 'bluff' hit on Conor Sheary

One day after being fined $2,403.67 for his knee-on-knee hit on Penguins forward Conor Sheary, Capitals right wing Tom Wilson explained to reporters what he was trying to do on the play and the reputation he’s trying to develop around the NHL.

“Honestly, on that play I wasn’t even going to hit him,” Wilson said of his decision to veer off his path to the Capitals’ bench for his unpenalized hit on Sheary. “That wasn’t my intention. I was just trying to kind of bluff check him, give him a fake and kind of go to the bench and our legs got caught up. 

“Hockey’s a fast game, and sometimes stuff happens that you don’t really intend on. I think it looked a lot worse than the outcome was. The impact really wasn’t that great. He was trying to get out of the way.”

Sheary finished Thursday’s Game 1 and was back on the ice for the Penguins on Saturday at Verizon after missing Friday’s practice at Kettler.

“Just kind of an unfortunate circumstance, but the league does their job,” Wilson said. “They watch pretty much all my hits, I’m sure. When you play the game hard, you’re going to get under a microscope, and you’ve just got to make sure you’re playing within the rules. Player safety’s a big part of the game these days. We want to make sure that everyone’s kind of safe out there and guys are playing within the rules. Whatever player safety needs to do to kind of keep the game in check and playing the right way, they’re going to do that.”

Wilson, 22, said he was not given any specific message from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

“I think I get the message,” Wilson said. “I know they’re watching. I play the game hard. When you play the game that way, you’re going to be under a microscope. You’re finishing checks hard, and up until this one I’ve been completely off the books. I’ve hit very hard but very legal. I’m not going to change the way I play. I’ve got to trust my instincts.

"That’s just a real unfortunate kind of circumstance. I don’t even intend to really hit him there. I’m trying to kind of bluff hit him and our legs get tangled up. I had no intention on going knee-on-one. You ask any player, if I’m going in there planning to go knee-on-knee, there’s a 50/50 chance it’s going to be my knee that blows up. That’s an unfortunate play. I’m sure he’s all right. I hope he’s all right. We’ll just go on with the series here.”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he believes Wilson has become a more disciplined player in his two seasons of coaching him. Wilson noted that he has never been suspended by the NHL, although that could be the NHL’s next step after issuing a fine.

“The game’s constantly evolving, you’ve kind of got to evolve with it,” Wilson said. “The Pittsburgh media was saying it was just a crazy Game 1, it was an octagon not a rink and I don’t think they really watched the Philly series because that was even crazier. 

“I kind of learned throughout that series that I’ve got to tone it down a little bit. Our team’s so good on the special teams that if we can give our team the advantage, that’s what I want to do. There’s going to be emotion, it’s playoffs and I’ve just got to make sure that I’m putting our team kind of up a man not down a man. 

“It’s playoffs, stuff happens. That was kind of an unfortunate one, but I’ve talked to Barry, I’ve talked to numerous refs, the league, I’ve talked to people. It’s no secret that I hit hard and that I play the game hard. I’ve just got to make sure that I’m staying within the rules and doing what I have been doing.”

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.