Tom Wilson will not be punished for his hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin during the Washington Capitals’ 4-1 victory in Game 2.
The hit occurred in the second period when Dumoulin got sandwiched between Wilson and Alex Ovechkin. After being tended to on the ice, Dumoulin left the game and did not return. Wilson was not penalized.
After reviewing the hit, the NHL Department of Player Safety determined that the play did not warrant a fine or suspension.
Here is their reasoning via Greg Wyshynski of ESPN.com:
“[T]he NHL Department of Player Safety determined that Wilson’s contact with Dumoulin was not considered an illegal check to the head. It felt that contact with the head was unavoidable on the play, and Dumoulin bracing himself for the Ovechkin hit materially changed the position of his head prior to Wilson making contact with him.”
The NHL’s Rule 48 states that when determining whether a check to the head is illegal, the body position of the player being hit is taken into consideration, especially if that player moves their body or head “immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact.” The DoPS also felt that Wilson’s positioning behind Dumoulin would not have allowed him to target the head.
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“I’m at no point trying to target the head at all,” Wilson said afterward via the Washington Post. “Unfortunately there’s a collision there. You know what, I’ve watched it briefly, and I don’t realize what I can really do any different. At the last second, I see [Ovechkin] coming in and you can see me bracing, as well, and I end up getting kind of taken out as well.”
As you might imagine, the Penguins, who were already playing without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin because of injury, were not happy with the play.
“Yeah I saw it, it looked like it was a high hit, but they didn’t see it that way,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told NBC’s Pierre McGuire during the game.
“We all know who he is and what he does on the ice, so I don’t really have a comment,” said Penguins defenseman Kris Letang via the Tribune-Review. “We expect that from him.”
Dumoulin, who went through concussion protocol, participated in practice on Monday and will be a game-time decision for Game 3 (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), according to Sullivan.
“I knew Wilson was coming from behind. I saw Ovi come and braced for Ovechkin,” Dumoulin said. “I wasn’t ready for Wilson at all. I got caught in that.”
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.