Capitals forward Tom Wilson was banned 20 games by the NHL on Wednesday for a blindside hit to the head of an opponent during a preseason game, the latest and most severe punishment in what the league called an “unprecedented” series of suspensions for the physical player.
Wilson’s fourth ban in less than 13 months will cost him nearly a quarter of the 82-game regular season — only five NHL players have been suspended longer for on-ice play — and $1.26 million in salary. It was announced just hours before the reigning Stanley Cup champion Capitals were to raise a banner and open their title defense by hosting the Boston Bruins.
Wilson, a former Plymouth Whaler forward, who plays on Washington’s top line with captain Alex Ovechkin, was ejected for the hit on St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist in the second period of the teams’ exhibition game on Sunday. Wilson had an in-person hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety in New York on Wednesday.
Wilson’s suspension, which he can appeal, is the longest handed down by the league since Raffi Torres of the San Jose Sharks was banned a record 41 games in 2015, also for a preseason hit.
Opening night highlights
(At) Washington 7, Boston 0: Alex Ovechkin and the Stanley Cup champion Capitals opened their title defense with a thrashing of the Bruins.
After watching the franchise’s first Stanley Cup banner ascend to the rafters, T.J. Oshie opened the scoring just 24 seconds in, and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the first of his two goals 11/2 minutes later to get the rout off to a fast start. It was the fastest first two goals by a defending champion in a season opener in NHL history — and it was just the beginning.
By midway through the second period, the Capitals chased goalie Tuukka Rask with five goals on 19 shots and ignited chants of “Back-to-back! Back-to-back!” from the fired-up crowd. Braden Holtby stopped all 25 shots he faced to improve to 15-2 with four shutouts against the Bruins.
(At) Toronto 3, Montreal 2, OT: Auston Matthews scored his second goal of the game in overtime, John Tavares scored his first goal for Toronto and the Maple Leafs beat Montreal in the opener for both teams.
Matthews took a feed from Patrick Marleau and beat goalie Carey Price 1:01 into the extra period.
Frederik Andersen stopped 34 shots, and Nazem Kadri had two assists for the Maple Leafs.
Artturi Lehkonen and Andrew Shaw scored for Montreal, and Price made 23 saves. Max Domi, the son of former Leafs tough guy Tie Domi, had two assists in his first game for the Canadiens.
Center Jack Eichel has been selected captain of the Sabres. The team announced the decision Wednesday, a day before its season opener against Boston. Eichel becomes the Sabres’ 16th full-time captain, and first to wear the “C’’ since Brian Gionta handled the role from 2014-15 to 2016-17. Buffalo went with alternate captains the past two years.
... A day after Vancouver forward Bo Horvat said the Canucks have instituted a Fortnite ban for the upcoming season, there was talk in NHL arenas about whether it is fair to blame the popular online game for performance on the ice.
... The Wild traded defenseman Gustav Olofsson to the Canadiens for minor league forward Will Bitten.