Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson will not have a hearing with the NHL department of player safety, avoiding any suspension for his hit that knocked Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin out of Game 2, ESPN has learned.
The hit occurred 4 minutes, 26 seconds into the second period on Sunday. Wilson was pressuring Dumoulin from behind as the Penguin moved the puck ahead from deep inside his defensive zone. Washington's Alex Ovechkin was speeding in on the forecheck. Dumoulin stopped his progress to brace for the hit from Ovechkin. Wilson's shoulder then slammed into Dumoulin's head, sending him flat down on the ice. He didn't return to the game.
There was no penalty called on the play, and the department of player safety determined that Wilson's contact with Dumoulin was not considered an illegal check to the head. It felt that contact with the head was unavoidable on the play, and Dumoulin bracing himself for the Ovechkin hit materially changed the position of his head prior to Wilson making contact with him.
Per Rule 48, one of the considerations for an illegal check to the head is the players' body positions: "Whether the opponent materially changed the position of his body or head immediately prior to or simultaneously with the hit in a way that significantly contributed to the head contact."
The NHL also felt that Wilson's position behind Dumoulin made it unlikely that he could target the head in that spot.
Wilson was suspended twice in the 2017-18 preseason by the department of player safety. He defended the hit after Game 2 in postgame interviews.
"I've watched it briefly, and I don't realize what I can really do any different. At the last second, I see [Ovechkin] coming in, and you can see me bracing too. I end up getting kind of taken out as well," said Wilson, who said he hoped Dumoulin wasn't hurt badly on the play. "The way I look at it: There's no way I can get his head from that point where I am. He stops and turns and I'm kind of right there as [Ovechkin is] coming in pretty aggressively. It's a collision. I end up getting blown right out of the water, too. it's a bit of an unfortunate play that he got hurt."
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan declined postgame comment on the hit. Dumoulin's status for Tuesday's Game 3 has yet to be announced. The Capitals won 4-1 to even the series.
The department of player safety has issued five suspensions in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs; all but Nazem Kadri's three-game suspension for boarding were for one game, and those four were also for contact with an opponent's head via an illegal hit (twice) or a cross-check (twice). The NHL recently issued an explanatory video regarding other hits that didn't receive suspensions and said it might do the same on this Wilson hit.