Monday against the Bruins, Tom Wilson fought for the first time this season. The 6-foot-4 Wilson threw hands with 6-foot-2 agitator Trent Frederic, who had 148 PIMs with the AHL Providence Bruins last season.
At the time, the Capitals were leading 3-2 with 11:11 remaining in the third period. The Capitals would go on to lose the game 5-3.
Wilson and Frederic dropped their gloves immediately after a neutral zone faceoff and squared up at center ice. Both teams rose to their feet on their benches. Wilson and Frederic traded big punches that missed the mark before the Bruins forward took a wild swing and fell over.
“The opportunity presented itself,” Frederic said, “and it worked out great.”
🎥 Trent Frederic on his fight with Tom Wilson in the third period providing the #NHLBruins a spark: "In the box, I was like a little kid in there, just jumping around when we scored. Felt good to watch that." pic.twitter.com/pBn0QgWMHq
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) February 2, 2021
The fight took Wilson, who is one of the Capitals’ most important and versatile forwards, off the ice during crunch time against one of the top teams in the MassMutual East. Frederic is a bottom-six player for the Bruins. Boston took advantage immediately.
A few minutes into Wilson and Frederic’s major penalties, Jeremy Lauzon found Craig Smith wide open for a one-timer in the left circle. Tie game.
Both players remained in the box when Brandon Carlo buried a shot past Vitek Vanecek to give the Bruins the lead late in the third period.
“In the box, I was like a little kid in there, just jumping around when we scored,” Frederic said. “Felt good to watch that.”
Brad Marchand would add an empty-net goal, giving the Bruins five unanswered goals. The loss would be the Capitals’ first in regulation this season.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy credited Frederic for changing the momentum in the game.
“I think Freddy had a lot to do with it with the scrap with Wilson,” Cassidy said. “That kinda got everyone’s attention on the bench. That’s arguably the toughest guy in the National Hockey League. And Freddy stood in there and gave us a bit of a boost. I don’t know what it does to their team but I know it gave us a boost.”
“Unbelievable job by him,” David Pastrnak added. “He had a great fight and gave huge energy to our bench. It was unbelievable. He’s a great forward and he’s done a lot for the win today.”
After the game, Peter Laviolette chose his words carefully but was clearly not happy with Wilson’s decision.
“It gets chippy out there,” Laviolette said. “You’re playing a team you’re competing with inside your division on back-to-back(s). I think guys get under each other’s skin a little bit. That had been going on for a better part of two games.”
Frederic tried to goad Wilson into fighting on Saturday, but Wilson passed.
Trent Frederic and Tom Wilson are getting along about as well as we all expected. pic.twitter.com/Hrgizz9wYN
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) January 31, 2021
“I just think Tom’s an important piece to our team,” Laviolette said. “I appreciate his toughness and physicality. But we appreciate him on the ice as well. It’s tough. Emotions are running high out there.”
Former Capitals pugilist Alan May said on NBC Sports Washington’s postgame show that he was skeptical the fight gave the Bruins momentum, but Wilson’s biggest sin was not being on the ice during “the most critical time of the game.”
Alan May (@MayHockeyNBCS) on if Tom Wilson's third-period fight robbed the Capitals of momentum: "The thing that affected the Capitals the most was Tom Wilson not being on the ice… He wasn't there in the most critical time of the game."
He added the fight was "kind of a dud."
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) February 2, 2021
Wilson said on Tuesday after practice that he felt the momentum shifting and thought the fight might help. Ultimately, he regretted the decision as he watched the Bruins tie and take the lead.
“In the back of my head, I’m thinking that might create some energy,” Wilson said. “In hindsight, it’s a one-goal game. I would like to be on the ice for those minutes. I’d like to be helping the team with energy on the ice, hitting and skating, and not necessarily sitting in the box.
“I think it was a bit of a waste,” Wilson concluded. “It was a short fight. They went out and scored a couple goals. I think I have to be smarter. That’s probably something he wanted to do.”
Screenshot courtesy of NESN
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