There were six fights in the opening period of the New York Rangers’ clash with the Washington Capitals game on Wednesday night as a controversy between the two sides rumbled on.
There was bad blood between the teams after Monday’s game in which Capitals enforcer Tom Wilson committed a series of penalties, including one which knocked Rangers’ star Artemi Panarin out for the rest of the season with a lower body injury.
Wilson was subsequently fined $5,000 by the NHL, which the Rangers viewed as a slap on the wrist in light of the severity of his actions. In contrast, the NBA fined Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving $35,000 on Wednesday for skipping press conferences.
It left the Rangers feeling the need to take matters into their own hands when the teams met again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.
And it didn’t take long for fists to fly. As soon as the puck dropped to mark the beginning of the game, three fights broke out simultaneously.
Shortly after, when Wilson took to the ice for the first time, he was immediately attacked by a Washington player.
In the first period alone, 20 penalties were issued, including 10 in the first minute.
The game saw a total of 141 penalty minutes with 100 of those coming in the first period.
“I definitely think we felt the need to take matters into our own hands a bit,” Rangers center Ryan Strome told the media afterwards.
“I thought it was a great response. And hats off to them for answering the bell. They knew our frustration. We solved it and played the rest of the game.
“Most of the guys that fought today were pretty disappointed and would have liked to respond in the previous game. The guys that wanted to step up did.”
Amidst all the fighting, the Capitals were eventually victorious, beating the Rangers 4-2 thanks in part to a hat trick from winger T.J. Oshie.
Oshie, who missed Monday’s clash due to the death of his father due to Alzheimer’s, was visibly emotional on the bench after scoring.
Wilson is known for his tough, rugged play on the ice — he’s been suspended five times by the NHL — but the Rangers viewed his actions in Monday’s match as a step too far.
His $5,000 fine was officially for punching Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich in the back of the head while he was face down on the ice during a scrum by the Rangers’ goal on Monday.
During the game, Wilson was assessed two minor penalties for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct for the incident.
But that wasn’t his only transgression, as later on, Panarin jumped on Wilson’s back to break up another altercation after which, Wilson appeared to grab the Rangers winger by the hair and whip him head first into the ice.
The New York team said Panarin will not play again this season after sustaining a lower body injury and called NHL’s head of player safety George Parros unfit to continue in his position after handing out a fine rather than a suspension.
In a Rangers team statement, they singled out Wilson as a “dangerous and reckless” player with a history of similar acts on the ice, and argued that Wilson’s status as a repeat offender warranted a suspension.
The Washington Capitals declined to respond to the Rangers statement and said they will let the NHL handle the situation.
The NHL has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.
Later on Thursday, the Rangers were handed a $250,000 fine for their public critique of a NHL league executive earlier this week.
The fine follows a Rangers statement calling the NHL’s head of player safety George Parros “unfit to continue” in his position after levying Wilson a fine rather than a suspension following a series of penalties in Monday’s game against the Rangers.
“Public comments of the nature issued by the Rangers that were personal in nature and demeaning of a League executive will not be tolerated,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement on Thursday.
“While we don’t expect our Clubs to agree with every decision rendered by the Department of Player Safety, the extent to which the Rangers expressed their disagreement was unacceptable. It is terribly unfair to question George Parros’ professionalism and dedication to his role and the Department of Player Safety.”