If it was anyone but Tom Wilson, the late-game collision with Calgary Flames star Johnny Gaudreau might have been easier to ignore.
But given Wilson’s history of dirty play, it’s tough to give the Washington Capitals bruiser the benefit of the doubt.
Scrambling to keep the Caps from adding another empty netter in the hopes of a miraculous tie in the dying seconds of Tuesday’s game at the Saddledome, Gaudreau was focused on the puck behind him. Wilson was on a collision course. Caught unaware, Gaudreau went down in pain after they connected. At the buzzer, the diminutive Calgary Flames dynamo gathered himself and slowly got up and coasted off the ice unassisted.
That scary moment was somewhat overshadowed by the Caps’ 5-4 win, and Alex Ovechkin tying Jaromir Jagr for third spot in NHL goal totals in the same rink Jagr scored his last one as a member of the Calgary Flames.
Fortunately, it sounds like Gaudreau will be OK. According to Sportsnet’s Eric Francis, Flames GM Brad Treliving suggested his big play winger is fine as of Wednesday morning.
Brad Treliving says Johnny Gaudreau and his knee are fine following the last-second collision he had with Tom Wilson last night.
Says they clipped skates, not knees.
Flames fans can exhale.
— Eric Francis (@EricFrancis) March 9, 2022
The NHL was also reportedly not considering any form of discipline.
Wilson has been suspended five times over his career with the Caps.
Last season, Wilson sent Bruins defenceman Brandon Carlo to hospital after a hit to the head, earning a seven-game suspension. In an aggressive display late in the season, he got away with a sucker punch on then-Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich, and ended Artemi Panarin’s season early when he slammed him to the ice sans-helmet.
At high speed, it initially looked like a knee-on-knee impact on Gaudreau. But while slowing the video down, it was much harder to tell where first point of contact came. Treliving suggested it was more skate to skate than knee on knee.
The Calgary Flames players had a recovery day on Wednesday but we’ll see on Thursday whether Gaudreau is a full participant in the morning skate. They face another big opponent with the Tampa Bay Lightning in town.
Gaudreau is arguably the Flames MVP so far – on pace for a career high 108 points. He leads the league in primary assists. And there hasn’t been a more productive point producer in the NHL since Jan. 1.