Matt Bradley bounced back from having his face bloodied in a first-period fight to score the winning goal with 4:51 left, and Alex Ovechkin also scored in his return from injury to lift the Washington Capitals to a 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.
Bradley went to the dressing room with 9:21 left in the opening period after taking several hard blows to the face from New York's Aaron Voros.
"If you're ever going to get into a fight at the time, I think that might've been one of them," Bradley said. "It didn't bother me.
"I could feel the blood coming, but there is no pain or anything. It's just one of those things that is more annoying than anything. You have to go in and get stitches and you have to miss five minutes."
Capitals head coach Bruce Boudreau respected Bradley's toughness.
"It's amazing," Boudreau said. "He got cut pretty good, came back and was instrumental in us winning. He's got oodles of character."
Those injuries didn't bother him a bit when he knocked the puck away from Wade Redden and raced up ice on a break. Matt Gilroy couldn't catch him from behind, and Bradley beat goalie Henrik Lundqvist with a rising shot to the glove side for his fourth of the season.
"Even if he takes a penalty, he can't allow that shot to be taken. I thought he had an opportunity to stop it," Rangers coach John Tortorella said of the rookie Gilroy.
"He needs to realize that he needs to pull out with Redds stuck on the boards there. It's a bump, but he'll learn from it."
Ovechkin missed six games because of an upper-body injury, believed to be a strained left shoulder, but came back with a flourish. He scored his NHL-leading 15th goal (in only 15 games) while New York's Sean Avery sat in the penalty box. That erased the Rangers' 1-0 advantage in the first period.
"It's always nice when you get hurt and you come back and you score in the first period on your first shot," Ovechkin said. "You feel pretty good about yourself. After that I feel pretty cool. I was not afraid to take some hits and go battle."
Boudreau earned his 100th NHL victory as coach.
Marian Gaborik scored both goals for the Rangers and moved into a tie with Ovechkin with his 15th. Gaborik gave New York a 1-0 lead just 1:16 in and then made it 2-2 at 8:23 of the third with a power-play goal against Washington backup goalie Semyon Varlamov.
"Of course it's frustrating," Gaborik said. "We had a good start, but we took a couple of bad penalties and they scored, We have to try to be disciplined."
Brooks Laich pushed the Capitals in front 2-1 when he got to a rebound of defenceman Mike Green's shot in the crease and knocked it past Lundqvist and into the net with 4:16 remaining in the second. Green also earned the primary assist on Ovechkin's goal.
Brian Pothier scored an empty-netter with 16.7 seconds left to make it 4-2.
The Rangers were fortunate to be trailing by only a goal heading into the third period as they were outshot 21-11 through 40 minutes. New York finished with 20 shots, tying its season low.
New York scored the game-tying goal when Gaborik scored from the goal-line to Varlamov's right, scoring on a shot from a difficult angle after the puck bounced to him. The Rangers converted on the second of back-to-back penalties.
Washington went 4-2 while Ovechkin was out, then beat New York despite missing top forward Alexander Semin, who was sidelined by a sore right wrist. Varlamov got the start in place of No. 1 goalie Jose Theodore, who was home because of a personal reason.
Varlamov played well against the Rangers after replacing Theodore in goal during the first round of last season's playoffs and was a major reason why the Capitals were able to erase a 3-1 series deficit and advance. He made 22 saves on Tuesday.