CAPITAL ONE ARENA – Do not tell the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins it is only December. To say Wednesday’s contest between the two rivals was an intense one would be putting it mildly.
It took all of 55 seconds before fisticuffs broke out between the two teams, as Tom Wilson knocked Penguins defenseman Jamie Oleksiak senseless to the delight of the red-clad Caps fans. The cheering did not stop there as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin could be seen screaming at each other from their benches after the fight.
Just listening to Pierre McGuire's play-by-play after Tom Wilson hit. "Crosby says 'Why don't YOU fight [Oleksiak]?' Ovechkin says 'Why don't YOU fight me?' Stop talking he says. Well...it'll be fun tonight here." #Caps #Penguins— Brian McNally (@bmcnally14) December 20, 2018
Crosby explained why the two began jawing at one another after the game.
"I'm just trying to find out why it wasn't an instigator [penalty] and he started yelling at me for some reason,” Crosby said. “My conversation was with the official, not with him, so I don't know why he felt the need to come over."
Since, of course, you never see both captains discussing calls with referees. That just doesn’t happen.
It’s not all that clear exactly what Crosby saw to justify an instigator call. After Oleksiak finished a check on Matt Niskanen, Wilson immediately made a beeline for him, but he certainly did not catch Oleksiak by surprise.
“He went a long way to make that hit, and right when we looked at each other, it was on,” Wilson said.
Both players knew a fight was coming, and Oleksiak even got off the first swing.
As a captain, there’s nothing wrong with Crosby appealing to the referees on his team’s behalf, just like there’s nothing wrong with an opposing captain inserting himself into that conversation to make sure an opponent isn't able to get that extra call from the refs.
Talking to the referees is part of the job when you get that C on your chest and it would have looked really bad for Ovechkin if Crosby had managed to wheedle an instigator call without any opposition from the Caps’ captain.
Neither Crosby nor Ovechkin really did anything wrong here, but like everything on Wednesday cooler heads did not prevail and things escalated into a shouting match between two of the sport’s greatest players.
If this is what we can expect should these two teams meet again in the postseason, there’s only one question left to ask: Is it April yet?
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