Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final between the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs got ugly very early, and the Lightning may want to be careful about which bear it is that they chose to poke in this series.
On Tuesday night Tampa Bay Lightning veteran defenseman Anton Stralman took a very bad penalty in the offensive zone when he drilled Washington Capitals enforcer Tom Wilson with a hit from behind. There was no question that Stralman saw Wilson's numbers all the way leading up to the hit and there is no doubt that he meant to deliver the low despite that fact.
There likely won't be too much sympathy for Wilson, a player that has become one of the more polarizing figures in the National Hockey League and perhaps the most polarizing figure still remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but there's no question this was a dirty hit. Stralman had plenty of time to ease up on the play or even make a different play altogether that didn't involve contact with Wilson, but instead chose to drive through the back of the Capitals enforcer, crushing him along the boards.
The impact of the blow from Stralman sent Wilson hard into the boards and his head seemed to adsorb a substantial part of the impact as he went into the boards somewhat sideways at an awkward angle. Wilson went down in a heap following the big hit from Stralman and he would remain down on the ice for several long seconds before eventually regaining his feet and shaking off the cobwebs. Surprisingly, when you consider Wilson's body language here, the concussion spotters did not step in and pull Wilson out of the game despite the fact that his brain was clearly impacted by the hit, and despite the fact that Wilson was noticeably clutching at his head while down on the ice.
It was a bad move by Stralman for two reasons. First the Lightning were dominating and had all the momentum prior to this hit, but that momentum was quickly stifled by the Washington Capitals power play. Secondly Wilson is the last player I want to make made in a playoff series and you can bet there will be hell to pay as this series goes on.