The Capitals knocked the Penguins out of the 2018 playoffs en route to their first-ever Stanley Cup victory. In late May, Penguins General Manager Jim Rutherford was still fired up about the elimination and a Tom Wilson head shot to one of his players, calling out the Capitals enforcer for not fighting Jamie Oleksiak.
“When Jamie challenged Wilson,” Rutherford said, “he couldn’t run quick enough to get away from him.”
Thursday night, Wilson, playing in his first game against Pittsburgh since his illegal check to the head of Zach Aston-Reese, fought Oleksiak during his first shift. Oleksiak threw the first punch, but Wilson knocked Oleksiak out with his fourth swing, a haymaker to the side of the head.
After the game, Wilson spoke about the fight with reporters.
“I think both parties knew all the stuff that was said after last season leading up to it,” Wilson said. “It probably had to be done sooner or later, give him a chance to defend his teammate on what happened last year.”
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 20, 2018
When asked what he thought about Rutherford’s comments from last May, Wilson avoided responding, but it was clear he was aware of them.
“It doesn’t really matter, I don’t think,” Wilson said. “Oleksiak plays tough. He’s a big part of their team. He came out pretty aggressive right on the first shift there. He went a long way to make that hit. Right when we looked at each other, it was on. That’s hockey.”
The Penguins provided no official updates on Oleksiak’s condition yet, but head coach Mike Sullivan said that his team “gave Jamie a big, rousing applause after the game, and he deserved it.”
NHL reporter Tom Gulitti also said that Oleksiak was walking around after the game had finished.
Jamie Oleksiak was walking around postgame tonight (had some marks by his left eye), but Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said he had no update on his condition.
— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) December 20, 2018
Oleksiak was unsteady after the fight and stunned on the bench afterward.
“You never want to see a guy go down like that,” Wilson said. “That’s hockey. I respect him as a player. It’s unfortunate to see that.”
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby echoed Wilson’s comments.
“Nobody likes seeing that, and obviously when two guys fight that’s a possibility of happening,” Crosby said.
Both captains were fired up after the Wilson/Oleksiak fight and yelled at each other from the benches, with Crosby challenging Alex Ovechkin to fight Oleksiak–and Ovechkin challenging Crosby to fight him himself or stop talking.
The teams meet again only once more in the regular season when the Capitals travel to Pittsburgh on March 12.
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