It had been a season of little controversy for Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson ... until Thursday night.
Wilson found himself drawing hockey fans' ire online once again as he knocked Boston Bruins forward Anton Blidh out of the game with a devastating open-ice hit in the first period.
Backchecking on a Washington power play, the Capitals' tough guy caught Blidh just after the Bruins forward had executed a drop pass. Blidh, 26, stayed down about a minute before he skated off the ice with the help of a Bruins trainer. Boston said during the first intermission Blidh would not return due to an "upper body" injury.
Wilson was not penalized on the play.
Tom Wilson lays a massive hit on Anton Blidh. 😳 pic.twitter.com/qICXQ1zPlO
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 21, 2022
The general consensus on the ESPN+ broadcast was that Wilson's hit was clean — rules analyst and former ref Dave Jackson said he "loved" Wilson's hit and another strong hit thrown by Boston's Charlie McAvoy.
"Neither player elevated, the hands were low. I mean, frankly, we need more of those hits in this game. Crowd gets into it, that's what hockey's all about," Jackson said.
Tom Wilson with a big hit on Anton Blidh. Blidh to the locker room pic.twitter.com/6kkwcXeouz
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) January 21, 2022
Wilson's hit did not appear to be particularly late and he did not appear to make any head contact with Blidh — which has not always been the case in his controversial career.
The 27-year-old Wilson has been suspended five times in his career. In fact, the most recent suspension Wilson picked up came just last season, with a hit he delivered on the Bruins' Brandon Carlo. He was suspended seven games for that incident.
It remains to be seen if the NHL examines Thursday night's play.
The Bruins went on to win 4-3 thanks to McAvoy's power-play goal in the final minute.
After the game, the Bruins took far more exception to a second-period hit from Garnet Hathaway that injured star Brad Marchand.
Nasty Garnet Hathaway hit from behind on Brad Marchand, who had to leave with an upper body injury that sure looked like a right shoulder issue. Not good. pic.twitter.com/LFZN1065CJ
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) January 21, 2022
Boston star David Pastrnak called Hathaway's hit "dirty." Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy "didn't like" Hathaway's hit but felt Wilson's hit on Blidh "was a hard hockey hit."
"The Marchand one I didn't like at all"
Bruce Cassidy was not happy with Garnet Hathaway's hit on Brad Marchand pic.twitter.com/ST8zguxLZD
— NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSBoston) January 21, 2022
This season has been low on controversy by Wilson's standards. He entered Thursday night fourth on the Capitals in scoring, with 12 goals and 16 assists in 36 games. After leading the NHL in penalty minutes last season, Wilson is down to 10th this year.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tom Wilson knocks Anton Blidh out of game with monster hit