Capitals Fend Off Rangers After Six Fights, 141 Combined Penalty Minutes

Caps win comes with six fights, 141 combined penalty minutes originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

After two days of shouting, fines and firings between the Capitals and Rangers, it took one second for the fighting to start. 

The Capitals’ fourth line of Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway and Carl Hagelin all dropped the gloves off the opening faceoff. Now the most hated man in New York, Tom Wilson, answered the bell next. Then Michael Raffl did, as did Lars Eller as the penalty box looked like an overcrowded Metro train just five minutes into the game.

When it ended, the teams combined for 141 penalty minutes, six misconduct penalties and a bevy of fighting majors. But once the bad blood died down after the first 20 minutes, the short-handed Capitals put three goals in, capped by a final empty-net, hat trick goal from T.J. Oshie, to earn an emotional and physical 4-2 win over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. 

“I thought our guys really hung together and stuck together, did what we needed to do and got to the two points heading home,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think the way we just stuck up for each other and played for each other the entire night, I thought we did a good job just staying disciplined as well. It was the game that was kind of dealt to us and I thought our guys did a terrific job with it.”

After Tom Wilson was in a scrum Monday night that led to a $5,000 fine, the Rangers, on the end of a wild two-day stretch, were ready to scrap. Once Wilson wasn’t suspended, the Rangers released a statement Tuesday that called Wilson’s role in the scrum a, “horrifying act of violence” and demanded the job of NHL Head of Player Safety George Parros. 

Wednesday afternoon, they fired their team president and their GM, though it was reported the moves had nothing to do with the statement on Wilson. 

Still, the Rangers felt the need to stand up for Artemi Panarin, who was injured in the scrum with Wilson on Monday night, and stand up for what they felt was too light of a punishment. Wilson fought on his first shift of the night, after the line brawl to start the game. 

“I think we kept our minds open to anything and they felt like we needed to do something and we were there to, I guess, answer it and get it over with and move on and play hockey,” center Nic Dowd said. “I think it was a fine response and everyone walked away feeling even.”

After the early fights, which led to 100 first period penalty minutes, the Capitals pumped three goals in the Rangers’ net, even as the physicality remained. 

Anthony Mantha was cross-checked in the face by Pavel Buchnevich in the second period, who was the recipient of Wilson’s fine-able actions Monday night. Buchnevich was given a misconduct for his check. 

There were no more fights from the second period on, but that didn’t stop the ejections as three more misconducts were given in the final two periods of a game that harkened back to hockey of yesteryear. 

“I think it's just you don't see it that much anymore,” Laviolette said. “This is the game that was dealt to us. I thought our guys responded well, we were disciplined. There's things that you have to do out there and I thought we did it, we kept our cool, won the game.”

More than just the (expected) physicality, though, the Capitals moved back into first place in the East Division with just three games to play. If they win out, they’ll once again win the division. They rallied around T.J. Oshie’s inspired hat trick. They won without captain Alex Ovechkin, center Evgeny Kuznetsov, winger Daniel Sprong and defenseman Justin Schultz. 

Without their top lineup, against a team out to settle a score, the Capitals were able to emerge Madison Square Garden on top of the division with a boatload of confidence headed down the stretch.

“I said before the game, that was kind of our focal point to make sure that we got the two points and that you didn't look back in the rearview mirror and not make (the extra-curricular) the priority tonight,” Laviolette said. “And so we were able to do that, get off this road trip and get back home and play some games and see if we can win them and win the division.”

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