On Tuesday, Mike Babcock minimized Tom Wilson's impact by saying the Maple Leafs had bigger concerns than the Caps’ fourth line right wing.
On Thursday, Wilson got back at the Maple Leafs head coach in the best way imaginable: he scored in overtime to push Washington past Toronto, 3-2, in Game 1 of the teams’ first round series.
Wilson acknowledged that he had seen Babcock’s comments scroll across his social media feed earlier in the week.
“Yeah, I am on Twitter,” he said.
“That’s the way it goes nowadays with social media and stuff. You grab those headlines and kind of everyone sees them.”
Wilson added: “When it comes down to it, it’s not going to change the way I play or the team plays or the way he coaches. When you go out there, all that’s kind of put behind and then you go out and play hockey.”
The goal, which came 5:15 into overtime, was Wilson’s first in 29 career playoff games. It also sank his hometown team, which jumped out to an early 2-0 lead against the tournament's top seed.
After the game, Babcock’s dismissive comments resurfaced.
“Nothing against [Wilson], because he works hard and all that, but he’s not as big of concern as a lot of people on their team,” Babcock had said, as quoted in The Washington Post.
“He’s a forechecker and he works hard, I think their fourth line has been real good for them. In saying that, they’ve got a lot of players that we’ll concern ourselves with more.”
Given the events in overtime, Babcock might want a second stab at answering that question.
Indeed, playoff history is littered with stories of fourth liners who have buried game winners in overtime.
Now, Wilson is part of that history.
The decisive play began with Leafs defenseman Martin Marincin retrieving a puck in the corner and then making a hurried, soft chip off the glass. Wilson sealed off the boards, gloved down the puck and sniped a shot over goaltender Frederik Andersen.
“Lots of emotion, obviously, pretty crazy,” Wilson said. “Once the puck goes in it’s a whirlwind. It’s a good feeling. Hopefully we keep it rolling here.”
As Wilson said, Babcock’s quote wasn’t the reason Marincin turned the puck over. Or the reason it eluded Andersen. It didn’t fuel Wilson’s competitive fire, either.
But it did make for a pretty fun story in a series that’s just getting started.
“I’m trying to take the high road here,” Wilson cracked. “I see it, obviously, because my phone’s not off. It comes through, I get people sending me it and stuff. I’m not going to deny that I saw it.”
“But, honestly, it’s a pretty true quote,” he continued. “He’s got a point. We’ve got Ovie, Nicky, Osh, Kuzy. There are other guys that they have to worry about. Maybe the way he said it seemed a little...but you know what? I’m glad that he said I worked hard, that’s a compliment; I’ll take that. There’s a lot of threats in this room and I think that’s all he was saying. Maybe it came off a little bit of the wrong way but we went out there and we played and he’s a respected coach in this league and we’ll leave it at that.”
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