“They don’t like us, we don’t like them,” Tom Wilson said of the Capitals-Penguins rivalry after the Caps’ morning skate. “There’s your quote.”
Hours later, Wilson turned those words into violent action 55 seconds into the game, knocking out Jamie Oleksiak in a tough-to-watch fight.
Wilson challenged Oleksiak after the Penguins defenseman went high on a hit that nailed both Matt Niskanen and Jakub Vrana.
Wilson tossed his mitts and landed three consecutive punches before knocking Oleksiak out with the fourth.
Oleksiak needed help from an official and his teammates to stabilize himself once he got up.
At the bench, a dazed Oleksiak was caught by NBCSN cameras with several bloody welts and bruises. He eventually went back to the locker room where he was checked by the Penguins’ medical personnel. He did not return to the game.
Alex Ovechkin would later challenge Sidney Crosby to a fight when the players returned to the bench for a shift change.
The bad blood between Wilson and the Penguins began during their playoff series last spring. Wilson was involved in several controversial plays, including an illegal hit to the head of Zach Aston-Reese that caused the Capitals forward to be suspended three games. The Penguins were especially peeved when Wilson was caught smiling on the bench after Aston-Reese left the game.
Several weeks later, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford criticized Wilson in the media saying the Capitals’ enforcer didn’t answer the bell when Oleksiak asked to fight.
“When Jamie challenged Wilson, he couldn’t run quick enough to get away from him,” Rutherford said.
In Wilson’s first game against the Penguins since, he fought Oleksiak and knocked him out during his first shift.
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