WASHINGTON, DC -- In the opening minute of the third period between the New York Rangers and the Washington Capitals, center Derek Stepan was skating backwards into the neutral zone on defense when the Caps’ Troy Brouwer was skating off on a change.
The two collided, with Brouwer awkwardly leaping over Stepan’s stick and connecting with the Rangers forward’s head.
Down went Stepan, and up went the ire from the Rangers’ bench.
Coach Alain Vigneault confirmed what you could hear on that clip, which is referee Chris Rooney exclaiming it was accidental contact.
But Vigneault wasn’t exactly buying the accidental part after the game.
“I just looked at the replay there. If he couldn’t see him, I don’t know what else he was looking at,” said Vigneault, after the Rangers’ 2-0 win. “Obviously the principal point of contact was the head, so we’ll see.”
Browuer gave his version of the events after the game:
“I was at the end of my shift, [defenseman Mike] Green had the puck and was pulling it out of our zone. I was going for a change and there was a little incidental contact in the neutral zone,” he said.
Stepan was shaken up but would return to the game, skating four more shifts in the third.
“I’m glad to see that he came back and wasn’t seriously hurt after it, those can be tough plays and I pride myself on being an honest player and tried to get out of the way without causing as much damage as possible,” said Brouwer.
What say you? Accidental contact? Intentional hit to the head? Or doomed to exist in the no man’s land of Steckel/Crosby, with both sides seeing what they see?