WASHINGTON — Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson was banned 20 games by the NHL on Wednesday for a blindside hit to the head of an opponent during a preseason game, the latest and most severe punishment in what the league called an “unprecedented” series of suspensions for the physical player.

Wilson’s fourth ban in less than 13 months will cost him nearly a quarter of the 82-game regular season – only five NHL players have been suspended longer for on-ice play – and $1.26 million in salary. It was announced just hours before the reigning Stanley Cup champion Capitals were to raise a banner and open their title defense by hosting the Boston Bruins.

The right winger, who plays on Washington’s top line with Alex Ovechkin, was ejected for the hit on Blues center Oskar Sundqvist in the second period of the teams’ exhibition game Sunday. Wilson had an in-person hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety in New York on Wednesday.

Wilson’s suspension, which he can appeal, is the longest handed down since Raffi Torres of the Sharks was banned a record 41 games in 2015, also for a preseason hit.

TRADE: The Minnesota Wild traded defenseman Gustav Olofsson to the Montreal Canadiens for minor league forward Will Bitten.

SABRES: Center Jack Eichel was named team captain.

Eichel becomes the Sabres’ 16th full-time captain, and first to wear the “C” since Brian Gionta handled the role from 2014-15 to 2016-17. Buffalo went with alternate captains the past two years.

WEDNESDAY’S GAME

MAPLE LEAFS 3, CANADIENS 2: Auston Matthews scored two goals, including the winner in overtime, as Toronto won at home.