Penguins player breaks jaw in testy playoff loss to Capitals
Gene J. Puskar / AP
PITTSBURGH — Alex Ovechkin knocked his own rebound out of midair and by Matt Murray with 1:07 remaining to lift the Capitals to a 4-3 victory on Tuesday night in Game 3 of their increasingly testy Eastern Conference semifinal series with Pittsburgh. Jake Guentzel had a goal and an assist for Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist also scored, but the Penguins lost consecutive playoff games for only the fourth time since the start of their run to consecutive Stanley Cups began in 2016.
Pittsburgh also lost forward Zach Aston-Reese to a broken jaw and a concussion following a violent collision with Washington’s Tom Wilson at the game’s midway point.
Aston-Reese was stickhandling near the Washington bench when Wilson slammed into him, sending the 6-foot-4 Aston-Reese to the ice.
Wilson was not penalized on the play, the second time in as many games he was not disciplined for a borderline hit.
Pittsburgh defenseman Brian Dumoulin went into the league’s concussion protocol after Wilson blindsided him in Game 2 while Dumoulin was bracing for a collision with Ovechkin.
The NHL’s Department of Player safety didn’t ask Wilson to explain himself during a hearing and Dumoulin was back in the lineup to start Game 3.
Both teams stressed the need to move forward with so much at stake. But that was before Aston-Reese slowly made his way off the ice, flinging one of his gloves at the Washington bench in frustration, his jaw mangled and his status for the rest of the postseason uncertain.
The initial point of contact was hard to discern, even on replay. Was it the shoulders? The head? Either way the tenor changed considerably.
“It’s definitely not an open-and-shut case (nor was Wilson’s hit on Dumoulin), but it has to be noted that Wilson’s status as a repeat offender means that he’s likely operating without benefit of the doubt at this point,” writes CBSSports.com’s Pete Blackburn. “The injury to Aston-Reese certainly doesn’t help either.”
Asked afterward about the hit, Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan replied “at some point we hope the league might do something.”
Maybe not. Officials conferred for several minutes before deciding to take no action against Wilson.
“They all got together and they said, ‘You know what, we’ve got a good, clean check here,'” NHL on-site supervisor Paul Devorski said through a pool reporter.
Game 4 is in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
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