A bizarre scene unfolded in Thursday night’s game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Washington Capitals that saw veteran netminder Elvis Merzlikins unleash on infamous NHL agitator Tom Wilson, a fight that eventually gave way to Alex Ovechkin’s overtime game winner.
During the final three minutes of overtime with the score tied 2-2, the Washington forward was shoved into the net on a play, seemingly knocking Merzlikins’ stick out of his hand.
When he went back to retrieve it, the fight erupted between the two – with Wilson mainly on the receiving end of Merzlikins’ frustrations.
“I mean, it’s an emotional game,” Merzlikins said after the game, adding that Wilson had been “after me all game long.”
“I was trying to grab my stick. I got punched in the head. Before that, I’m pretty sure he was trying to get me hurt. So, I was just trying to get my stick. I got punched. Well, enough . . . I’m going to defend myself.”
Merzlikins said Wilson was going at him full speed – a dangerous tactic that could’ve resulted in a serious injury.
“Watch the replay, he was going straight for my knee. I could be out for the rest of the season. He got what he deserved, I don’t care.”
Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, Merzlikins was given a roughing call, and Ovechkin, who was on a 14-game goal drought, scored with just 53 seconds left in regulation.
After the game, head coach Pascal Vincent didn’t hide his feelings about the situation, saying that the fight resulting in a power play for the Capitals “cost us the game.”
“We earned to win that game, and that incident cost us. We have to control our emotions there. So it’s disappointing,” he said.
“Tom WIlson’s job is to get in people’s faces, and the goalie’s face. And he’s creating a lot of emotion – the emotions were high. And he did what he had to do, and we reacted. Cost us the game.”