- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tom Wilson insisted that he wasn’t trying to hurt Curtis Lazar and was merely trying to force a turnover when he received a match penalty following a hit in the third period of the Washington Capitals‘ 2-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.

With 4:44 remaining, Lazar and Senators defenseman Cody Ceci were entering the Capitals‘ zone when they were met inside the blue line by Wilson and defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Taylor Chorney. Ceci appeared to attempt a pass to Lazar from close range, at which time the left side of Wilson’s body made contact with the right side of Lazar, with the force of the hit sending the center sprawling to the ice.

Wilson chased the puck into the right corner, where he was first hit by Ceci before a check by right wing Chris Neil caused a skirmish among several players. After separating the players, officials assessed Wilson a match penalty, disqualifying him from playing in the remainder of the game, and whistled Neil for roughing.

The match penalty, which totals 10 penalty minutes but is played as a five-minute major, could prevent Wilson from playing for the Capitals against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday. Rule 21.2 states that a player shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the league reviews the hit, and that review is likely to occur on Thursday afternoon.

Lazar did not return to the game after the hit. The Senators scored 26 seconds into the ensuing power play when right wing Bobby Ryan had his 10th goal of the season, but the Capitals killed off the remaining 2:34 afterward.

“Honestly, I don’t know if I hit him with my shoulder even,” Wilson said after the game. “I think the main point of contact is hip-on-hip, and he has no clue I’m there. That’s the only reason it looks so bad — because he’s leaning in to make a move that way and I take away his space. I’m standing there, I take away his space. I don’t hit his head at all.

“There’s maybe a little bit of shoulder-on-shoulder, but I’m a big guy. I’m 220 pounds. If you’re not expecting to run into that, then you’re going to get a little bit of whiplash. It would have been a different story if I would have came in flying and finished right though him. It would have been a lot bigger of a hit. I’m aware that he can’t see me. I’m aware about all the rules and plays. I’m aware about blindside hits, and I just try to keep my arms at my side, take away his space, track the puck and create a turnover. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

Lazar, the Senators’ fourth-line center, sustained a concussion in a game against the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 24 and missed the next three games. Coach Dave Cameron said Lazar’s availability for Ottawa’s next game, Friday at home against the San Jose Sharks, would be determined on Thursday.

Cameron insisted that the officials made the right call, but didn’t elaborate when asked.

“That’s my opinion,” Cameron said. “My opinion was the right call. What else do you want to say? That’s what I said — it was the right call. That says it all, doesn’t it?”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said that he was told Wilson received a match penalty, but did not receive an explanation from referee Jon McIsaac.

“I don’t even know if that was a penalty in the league,” Trotz said. “I mean, Willy’s tracking that, and I think it’s Lazar, [No.] 27 — the point of contact is at his hip. His hands are down. He’s not — he’s tracking the puck. He’s trying to take his space because Lazar’s cutting, trying to get by our defenseman and he was taking space.

“I feel bad for Willy, but the guys — they fought through that. The league’s very good at using common sense on plays, so I’m sure they’ll look at that and I’m sure that [general manager Brian MacLellan] will talk to the league on that one, and we’ll go from there.”

Wilson said he watched the replay a few times after the incident and failed to understand the ruling.

“I wasn’t even really trying to hit him,” Wilson said. “I just take away his space and his neck snaps a little bit. I don’t know. You’re going to have to watch the replay yourselves and come up with your own opinion. I have my opinion, but it doesn’t really matter at this point. We got the win, and we’ll see what happens with that. I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a deal.”

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