Right or wrong, hockey has always had its own brand of on-ice justice where players are made to answer for slights both real and perceived by being challenged to a fight. It’s an enduring part of the NHL, and the ability for players to stand up for teammates is part of the reason many believe fisticuffs always will have a place in the game. That doesn’t mean it’s not odd to see players have to fight after delivering a clean hit.

Thirteen minutes and 49 seconds into the second period of the Capitals’ game in Buffalo Sunday night, the system was at work.

Rookie winger Tom Wilson, who is establishing a reputation as a relentless physical presence, delivered a shoulder check against Ville Leino that sent the Sabres forward flying along the boards. The hit was clean and there was no penalty on the play, but Sabres forward Marcus Foligno took exception to Wilson’s crunching check and incited a fight moments later.

Even though it was a legal hit, Wilson wasn’t surprised he had to drop the gloves.