WASHINGTON - Tom Wilson had one basic reaction to being considered a villain by the Islanders and their fans for the hit that put Lubomir Visnovsky out of the lineup Tuesday: He must be doing his job.
"You know what? It's almost a compliment that they're so worried about me. I'd be upset if I was a 'good guy' or something like that," Wilson said Thursday after the Capitals' morning skate. "It's a playoff series. Emotions run high. You're not going to be best friends with guys across the way. I'm just going to continue to play my game, play hard and clean, and I'm sure they're going to do the same."
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Wilson didn't waste any time Thursday night as he fought Anders Lee in the first period of the Capitals' 5-1 victory.
The 21-year-old from Toronto, who missed Game 1 of this series because he was getting over a concussion, said he feels bad for Visnovsky but still says the hit was "pretty clean." The 6-4, 210-pound Wilson was assessed two minutes for charging but was not further disciplined by the NHL. Visnovsky did not dress for Game 5 Thursday night.
"Obviously, he's a littler guy and a veteran guy. I hope he's doing all right. You don't want to see a guy go down," Wilson said. "But at the end of the day, it's hockey. It's a battle right now. They don't like us, we don't like them. It's no secret, and obviously they've been telling you guys that.
"They've got a good line that's going to play exactly the way I do," he said, referring to Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin. "They've run our defense all series. It's pretty much the same thing. Maybe [the hit on Visnovsky was] a little bit bigger of a hit, maybe it's a little bit more of a smaller guy/bigger guy mismatch there. But you see Clutterbuck, Martin, Cizikas, every chance they get on any defenseman, they run into him as hard as they can. I don't care what they say, they're trying to get in on our defense as much as we're getting in on theirs. That's playoff hockey for you."
One difference between Wilson and the Islanders' fourth line is that the latter group has produced many chances and two goals in a low-scoring series. Still, Capitals coach Barry Trotz said, "They've got aggressive players, too. Their fourth line is banging around. That's what they do. That's what Tom Wilson does. There have been big hits on both sides.
"It's just size and mass," said Trotz, who consistently has praised the Islanders and Nassau Coliseum during this series. "Big bodies running into other bodies, there's going to be carnage sometimes. I think it's been a rather clean series on both sides. Hard-nosed players going against hard-nosed players. That's playoff hockey."