Washington Capitals winger Tom Wilson defended his controversial hit on Vegas Golden Knights winger Jonathan Marchessault in the third period of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, saying it was “a good clean hit” in “playoff hockey.”
Marchessault, as well as Vegas teammates, took offense to the play.
With the score tied 4-4, Wilson laid out Marchessault at open ice, which stirred the Vegas bench. The referees huddled but decided not to issue a major penalty, instead giving Wilson two minutes for interference. Vegas winger David Perron was also given a two-minute minor for offsetting penalties.
Vegas won 6-4 to take a 1-0 series lead.
“I saw the hit. I remember everything,” said Marchessault, who went through the concussion protocol but returned to finish the game. “It was a late hit. I don’t really need to talk more about it. I think the league will take care of it. We know what type of player he is out there. You gotta keep your head up and try to make the play. I didn’t make the play. I was a little late, but whatever.”
Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said the coaching staff was “upset about it. It was a big hit.” Gallant called Wilson an “old-school player” but said, “For me, it was a late hit.”
Golden Knights fourth-liner Ryan Reaves added: “It was a late blindside hit like Wilson always does.”
Afterward, Wilson saw no problem with the play.
“There are going to be hits,” Wilson said. “It’s a contact sport. That’s all that I saw.”
Marchessault described the play from his point of view: “I have the puck, I’m trying to make the play, I see [Reilly Smith and William Karlsson] going through, a couple seconds go by, and I just get blindsided. I’m not a guy that makes those decisions, but I’m sure the league is going to take care of it.”
Wilson’s take: “He’d probably say he shouldn’t admire his pass. I’m just finishing my check. I haven’t slowed it down. I’ve been told that we’re talking tenths [of a second] here. I think it’s game speed, and I delivered it in good time. I think he let up a little bit because he wasn’t aware I was there. I finished him through his body. He might have been a little bit surprised by it, but it wasn’t an aggressive hit. He looked fine at the end when he was yelling at me from the bench.”
Wilson was suspended for three games in Washington’s second-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins for a hit that broke the jaw of Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese. Wilson is already considered a repeat offender; he was forced to sit out two preseason games following a late hit on St. Louis Blues rookie Robert Thomas and was suspended for the first four games of the regular season after boarding Blues forward Sammy Blais.
“You always have your reputation,” Wilson said. “When you play my physical style, you’re going to have that reputation. I trust myself. I play the game hard. It’s my job to bring that energy, that physicality. Right after he got up, he said ‘good hit.’ It’s the Stanley Cup Final out there. There are going to be hits. It looked good to me.”