It is one of the loneliest skates in hockey, from the penalty box to the bench after an opponent scores on a power play you gave them.
That was the skate Tom Wilson had to make after taking a double minor for roughing it up with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri 8:12 into the third period of the Caps’ come-from-behind 3-2 shootout victory at Verizon Center.
Wilson and Kadri got tangled up in the corner, tugging each other until Wilson dropped his gloves and shook Kadri like a rag doll. Wilson got four minutes for roughing, Kadri got two. And with Wilson still in the box, James van Riemsdyk scored on the power play to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead midway through the third period.
“It’s a fine line,” Wilson said. “I can’t really put myself in that situation to begin with at that point in the game, it’s such a close game.”
Wilson, who has yet to get into a fight after leading the Caps with 12 of them last season, didn’t like the call but says he should have known better.
“I think it was a pretty even battle,” Wilson said. “I had no helmet on and my head was kind of slammed into the ice. I didn’t throw any punches, but at the end of the day he’s a skill guy; he’s not going to fight me. I felt like I had to stick up for myself a little bit. I’m definitely learning my lesson, I can’t engage at all because you never know how the refs are going to call it. I put myself and my team in a bad situation.”
Once Wilson returned to the Capitals bench he stayed there for the remainder of the game as punishment for his transgression.
“Absolutely, it was not a good penalty,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who gave his team the day off on Sunday in preparation for visits to Detroit on Tuesday and Philadelphia on Thursday. “When emotions get tied into close games that’s how you don’t play. That’s why Tom never saw the ice again. He knows that and hopefully he learns from it.”
Wilson said the saving grace of Saturday night’s game was the fortitude the Caps showed in tying the score not once (on Alex Ovechkin’s disallowed goal) but twice, when Nicklas Backstrom fluttered the puck past an outstretched James Reimer with 0.8 seconds remaining in regulation.
Ovechkin netted the only goal in the fourth round of the shootout to give the Capitals the win.
“For me individually, I take a bad penalty and this team comes back and finds a way to win the game and that’s unbelievable,” Wilson said. “Unbelievable. We really came together. A lot of teams would fold up after Ovi’s goal was taken away, but good teams find a way to win and we did.”
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