- The Washington Times - Monday, March 29, 2021

The double-edged sword that Tom Wilson can so often be unsheathed itself fully in the Capitals’ 5-4 win on Sunday.

The winger was a thorn in the Rangers’ side, scoring twice. But he also picked up two minor penalties, and the latter one led to New York’s fourth goal late in the third period. To Washington, though, those infractions are worth the dominance Wilson otherwise brings when he’s on the ice.

Since returning from a seven-game suspension for his rough hit on the Bruins’ Brandon Carlo along the boards, Wilson has notched five points in four games — and four points in his last two contests. Wilson played a major part in the Capitals’ five-win homestand, and he’ll continue to be a difference-maker as Washington begins a road trip Tuesday with a rematch against the Rangers.

“Willy’s just an all-around great player for us,” defenseman Brenden Dillon said. “First and foremost, he creates a lot of room for his teammates when he’s playing physical, he’s getting into the forecheck. And offensively, the skill he has and how much offense he creates. He can make plays. He’s tough to handle when you get the cycle game going.”

Wilson’s return from his seven-game suspension was easier than the returns for some of his teammates who missed time through the coronavirus protocols. While his teammates couldn’t continue practicing with the team, Wilson could.

And while coach Peter Laviolette said Wilson’s first game back on March 20 involved “getting his feet under him a little bit,” he still chipped in an assist.

Wilson’s most recent performances have fueled Washington to another two wins despite playing three games in roughly 72 hours. He notched two assists in a 4-0 win Friday against the New Jersey Devils before his two-goal performance Sunday.

His first tally came on a rebound, tracking teammate Jakub Vrana’s drive to the crease before flicking in the deflection. His second came with him crashing the net again, batting the puck out of the air and into the back of the cage. Those efforts were much needed in a tight contest, giving the Capitals their 10th win in their last 11 games.

“I think just getting his timing back in that first game was important, but since then, he’s been really dominant out there,” Laviolette said. “He’s been physical, he’s been fast, he’s been producing, he’s been a good defensive player for us.”

As Washington prepares for a five-game road trip, the team enters tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for most points in the NHL. Big contributions from several attackers have propelled a run of 14 wins in 16 games, with Alex Ovechkin chief among those threats (he scored his 11th goal in his last 11 games Sunday).

Part of that string of positive results came with Wilson missing from the lineup. But his return only bolsters an attack that’s firing on all cylinders right now — and that’s worth a few minutes in the penalty box.

“Obviously, there are some linemates that are really hot, so just trying to jump on the bandwagon a little bit and help them out,” Wilson said of his strong form since returning. “It’s nice when they go in, for sure.”

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