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Oshie nets hat trick as Capitals-Rangers brawl from the opening bell

·4-min read

An emotional TJ Oshie scored a hat trick Wednesday as the Washington Capitals defeated the New York Rangers 4-2 in a fight-filled clash that featured fireworks from the opening faceoff.

The two East Division rivals combined for a total of 141 penalty minutes in their second game in just three nights as there were six fights in the first 4:14 of play, including three off the opening faceoff.

Immediately after the win, Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom embraced teammate Oshie, who was playing his first game since the death of his father.

"I felt like he needed a hug," Backstrom said. "I told him 'You are the strongest person I know.' First of all it is impressive that he actually played today."

But Oshie's heroics were overshadowed by the bad blood between the two rivals that had spilled over from the Capitals' 6-3 Monday win.

That's when Washington's enforcer Tom Wilson drew four penalties and was later slapped with a $5,000 fine by the league.

Wilson punched Ranger forward Pavel Buchnevich in the back of the head while the Russian was face down on the ice. Wilson also went after the smaller Artemi Panarin, ripping off his helmet and throwing him to the ice.

The Rangers felt Wilson got off lightly with just a fine and publicly called for the removal of the NHL's discipline chief George Parros, setting the stage for Wednesday night's explosive opening with Wilson at the center of the storm.

Adding to the tension among the Rangers, the club also on Wednesday abruptly fired president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton with three games left in the season. Chris Drury was named president and GM.

It was not immediately clear if the front office shakeup had any connection to Monday's dustup but the timing raised questions.

"It's obviously a crazy day. You add in the anxiety or anticipation all day from our group, and then waking up from a pregame nap with the whole set of news," Rangers forward Ryan Strome said.

One second after the opening faceoff Wednesday, three forwards each from both teams squared off at center ice. Washington's Nic Dowd, Carl Hagelin and Garnet Hathaway traded punches with Rangers forwards Kevin Rooney, Colin Blackwell and Phillip Di Giuseppe in front of the pandemic-limited crowd of 1,800 at Madison Square Garden.

No sooner had the officials broken those fights up and sent the players to the penalty box then Wilson came out for his first shift of the game. He was immediately challenged by Rangers tough guy Brendan Smith.

There would be two more fights before the period was out, leading to a total of 100 penalty minutes in the first period alone.

"We were just trying to stick up for our teammate," Smith said. "It was a good response for sure.”

Referees TJ Luxmore and Ian Walsh did a good job of keeping a lid on the penalties after initial fights by handing out 10 minute misconducts to Capitals Zdeno Chara and Wilson, and a five minute major and game misconduct to Buchnevich after he highsticked Washington's Anthony Mantha in the face in the second period. Buchnevich will likely be suspended for his crosscheck.

- Wilson exits injured -

“I thought our guys really hung together and stuck together, did what we needed to do and got to the two points and heading home," Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said.

Wilson left the game in the second period with an unspecified injury and did not return, which also helped tamp down the tension.

Wilson is one of the most suspended players in the league as he had already been banned seven games earlier this season for boarding the Boston Bruins' Brandon Carlo. Wilson has missed 30 games in his eight-year career for disciplinary reasons.

Wilson's fine and the chaotic aftermath overshadowed the heartwarming story of Oshie, who played after the announcement of his father's death on Tuesday.

Tim Oshie, who was his son's hockey coach, had been battling Alzheimer's.

“We are trying to be there for him and take care of him and he ends up taking care of us,” Dowd said of Oshie.

Two of Oshie's goals Wednesday came on the powerplay in the second period, and the third he deposited into an empty net to seal the victory.

Washington was without Alex Ovechkin, who has missed the last five games with an unspecified injury. Ovechkin needs one goal to tie Marcel Dionne at 731 for fifth place on the NHL's all-time list.

gph/lb

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