Tom Wilson said Wednesday that the hit he laid on Lubomir Visnovsky in the first period of the Washington Capitals’ victory over the New York Islanders a day earlier was “fairly clean.”
Wilson, the Capitals’ fourth-line right wing, checked Visnovsky off his feet at 5:54 of the second period and was whistled for charging. Visnovsky needed to be helped off the ice and did not return to the game, which Washington won, 2-1, in overtime.
“I had the puck and kind of shot it on net,” Wilson said, referring to an attempt he made seconds earlier that Visnovsky blocked. “I took maybe one stride, or I was gliding in. Obviously, it was a pretty big collision, and the ref makes a call based on what he felt at the time. I looked at it a couple times. I think everyone in the room felt it was fairly clean.”
Visnovsky was trying to get to the puck from behind the net as it rattled toward the right corner, and the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Wilson arrived from the opposite direction, making contact with the Islanders’ 5-foot-10, 192-pound defenseman along the end boards.
Wilson’s left shoulder hit Visnovsky in the upper chest — he did not appear to hit Visnovsky in the head, which would have made it an illegal hit — and the momentum carried both players off their feet. Visnovsky fell backward and landed just inside the right side of the trapezoid behind the net, while Wilson also tumbled, and his left forearm may have hit Visnovsky in the head on the way down.
The NHL chose not to subject Wilson to any supplemental discipline, reinforcing the Capitals’ claim that it was a clean hit. Visnovsky had previously taken a hard hit in Game 3 when he was checked in the upper back by Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer and was also slow to get up afterward.
“He didn’t leave his feet,” coach Barry Trotz said on Wednesday. “He stayed low. The puck’s right there. All those things. I mean, you know, Tom Wilson didn’t do anything other than run him over. Tom Wilson’s a lot bigger than their player, and he hit him clean. It’s really no different than what [the Islanders’ Matt] Martin or [Cal] Clutterbuck or [Casey] Cizikas are doing. They’re hitting hard and they’re hitting clean.”
Visnovsky’s status for Game 5 in the series, which is tied at 2-2, is uncertain, Islanders coach Jack Capuano told reporters following his team’s practice on Wednesday, and it’s unknown whether the defenseman will even travel with the team to Washington.
Capuano did not specifically address the hit, but center John Tavares, New York’s captain, did not believe it was legal.
“The puck wasn’t even close to where Lubo was, so it’s just a complete target of a defenseless player,” Tavares told reporters, having earlier said that the Islanders “could easily hit a lot of guys like that too, but we stay within the rules and play the game the right way.”
If Visnovsky can’t play on Thursday, the Islanders could be without two of their top four defensemen. Travis Hamonic is yet to play after sustaining what the team is only calling a lower-body injury — reportedly an affliction to his left knee — late in the regular season.
The hit came amidst a physical, chippy portion of the second period and happened just 22 seconds after Wilson left the penalty box after he was whistled for kneeing the Islanders’ Josh Bailey.
“I mean, whenever I make a body check, I make sure I’m trying to do everything as clean as possible — staying on my feet and kind of finishing hard and low through the guy’s body,” Wilson said. “He’s a littler guy, and obviously, he took a little bit of a wrath from that hit, and he wasn’t feeling great afterwards, but it’s tough. I hope he’s feeling all right. You never want to see a guy go down like that, but it’s a hard-nosed sport and it’s a hard-hitting sport, so that’s going to happen.”
• Zac Boyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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