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Rangers - Capitals kicks off with fights, including on first Tom Wilson shift

On Tom Wilson's first shift of the game for the Capitals since Monday's actions, Rangers' Brendan Smith wastes no time and engages him in a fight in the first period.

Hockey fans turning into Rangers - Capitals for fights following the Tom Wilson incident could not have been disappointed on Wednesday. And they didn’t have to wait long for fights, including one involving Tom Wilson vs. Brendan Smith.

Right off of the opening faceoff, three sets of Capitals and Rangers engaged in fights. Amusingly, Zdeno Chara was not one of those combatants.

Moments into his first shift, Tom Wilson fought with Brendan Smith, with Smith accruing additional penalties, including an instigator. Through little time, the Rangers and Capitals’ fights combined for 72 PIM (42 for Rangers, 30 for Capitals).

Ultimately, the Capitals beat the Rangers 4-2 after T.J. Oshie collected a hat trick in his first game back since his father’s passing.

This montage of Rangers - Capitals fights captures the early battles, including Tom Wilson vs. Brendan Smith highlights. (You can see all of Wilson - Smith in the video above this post’s headline.)

Early in the second period, the Capitals announced that Tom Wilson would not return to the game due to an upper-body injury.

You know it’s a rowdy opening when the penalties portion of the box score is already this loaded:

Image 5-5-21 at 7.37 PM

By the end of the first period, the two teams combined for 100 penalty minutes. Oh, and zero goals.

Tom Wilson fallout/what led to all of these Rangers - Capitals fights

This fight-filled Capitals - Rangers game is the culmination of a truly frantic few days.

  • In a now-notorious incident, Tom Wilson was penalized, but not ejected, after an incident most primarily involving Artemi Panarin and Pavel Buchnevich. Panarin suffered season-ending injuries, though it’s worth noting that New York’s season is nearly over.
  • At first, the Rangers reacted to Wilson getting fined, not suspended, by players like Ryan Strome calling it a joke. Strome would be involved in one of the Rangers - Capitals fights.
  • Following that, the Rangers released a surprising statement criticizing the Tom Wilson non-suspension, and the job performance of George Parros in the Department of Player Safety.
  • That wasn’t the only big Rangers news, though. Earlier on Wednesday, the Rangers removed Jeff Gorton and John Davidson, with Chris Drury moving in as their new GM.
  • And ... now there’s this game, with plenty of time to go for more fights and drama.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.