PITTSBURGH – Remember that Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have been two of the best teams in NHL in the last decade. Forget that they have the two biggest players in this generation – hello, they are two of the biggest players in sports history – in Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Forget that the former made his eighth goal for playoffs on Tuesday, and that later, what has been in this point continued a stunning and dominant post season performance with his eighth final goal finish to complete a third period recurring and lifting the capitals to a 4-3 win, giving them a 2-1 lead in the series against their long-term mesis.
This series, no matter who wins or loses it, is no longer about any of it. It's no longer about the two superstars. It is no longer about Pittsburgh's pursuit of a three-square or Capitals endeavor to break through the second round glass promise.
This series is, at least for the moment, the Tom Wilson series.
For the second time in so many games, and for the third time in these playoffs, another player had to leave a game with a loss ̵
This time, the unlucky recipient Penguin's rookie forward Zach Aston-Reese – joined Columbus Alexander Wennberg in the first round and Brian Dumoulin, Aston-Reeses teammates, in this round – as he was crushed in front of the Capitals bench. He stayed on the ice for several moments before he finally reached his feet and slowly moved to the locker room. Just as it was on Sunday when Brian Dumoulin had to leave the game, there was no penalty on the game.
All four officials had a long discussion after the game.
Paul Devorski, NHL's on-site supervisor spoke to a pool reporter after the match to explain what happened there.
"When we have a big hit, and there are many things going on the ice, our guys come together," said Devorski. "It was obvious that both judges did not put their arms up, so apparently they did not think it was a punishment. So now they take in the linemen, as if they think it's a big punishment, they will tell the judges. all came together and they said, "You know we have a good clean check here."
Devorski's brother Greg Devorski was one of the rulers in the game. Ryan Gibbons was the other. The judges were Kevin Pollock and Francois St. Laurent .
[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]
Following the revelation, a apparently annoyed Mike Sullivan revealed the extent of Aston-Reeses injury, perhaps in an attempt to capture the attention of NHL's gaming safety department. After all, the outcome of the match often appears to play a role in what punishment is being awarded.
"Well, we just have to be focused," said Sullivan when he asked how the team must try to keep calm in the wake of that game.
"We lose a guy into a broken jaw that will require surgery and concussion due to another big blow to the head. At some point, we hope the league could do something. But what we are concerned about is all we are can control what lies within our power and that's our focus on the game. That's where our focus will be. "
Sullivan really did not need to pay attention to any of it.
Not only does the league read everything, but the head of the NHL Department of Game Safety, former long-term administrator George Parros, attended Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. He had a front row chair for everything. What he and his staff decide to do in the wake of this will be someone's guess, but the latest story probably gives us a good indication of where they could go.
Just like the Wennberg battle in the first place, and just like they were with the Dumoulin battle on Sunday, and just as it has been virtually every controversial border battle that Wilson has delivered in his career, there's Again enough gray area here – or unclear views on playback, or something else that seems to happen when these hits are delivered – to let everything be open to debate.
Mike Sullivan simply called it a big hit.
The captain, Barry Trotz, also weighed in not only the hit, but also Wilson in general.
"Tom is obviously a big body, he's extremely strong and he's hard," said Trotz. "My first look at the battle, both guys strengthen it, it's shoulder to shoulder and he just blown through him. There are very passionate fanbases, we have a passionate fan base. Pitt does it too. You can not be neutral. It's a neutral party looking at it. We simply say what the league determines, we're fine with it. To me it was a hard hockey team. "If you want my opinion, I saw it. It was shoulder to shoulder."
When Trotz received a follow-up that included the update of Aston-Reese status, he declined further comment and said he did not care what Sullivan said.
"I have already said what to say about the battle, I do not think I need to comment anymore, and I really do not care what Sully said, says Trotz." I'm not on their medical team so I could not tell you. All I can say is that I saw the hit, both guys brake for the shoulder, the shoulder shoulder, and I do not know the extent of their players so I do not think I will comment. "
[Related: Wilson enrages Penguins with another controversial hit]
The penguins were also not pleased that Wilson was laughing on the bench after the game.
"I get the physical game. I'm getting the physical game. I've been on the wrong side of it," says Penguin defender Kris Letang. "At the end of the day, I respect what game he is playing. But you do not laugh at anyone being hurt. You do not. "
Justin Schultz called it" disrespectful.
The capital did not make Wilson available to the media after the match.
Now we are waiting for the game on Wednesday to see if Wilson is called disciplinary hearing.
Given that he was actually punished during the Wennberg battle game and still not receiving a postponement and not hearing for the Dumoulin battle, it would be very hard to believe the league would draw the line here on this.
This means that Wilson will probably return to the game for game 4 on Thursday where he will undoubtedly be an attention, whether before the match when both sides are asked about him or his game or something he does during the game.
True, Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby can do some more goals.
May even be a good one