Ovechkin returns, but Bradley ignites Capitals in win over Rangers
NEW YORK -- For one night, at least, Matt Bradley stole the spotlight from Alex Ovechkin.
Bradley got into a momentum-turning fight midway through the first period, then scored the go-ahead goal with 4 minutes 51 seconds remaining to lift the Washington Capitals to a 4-2 victory over the New York Rangers.
Ovechkin also tallied on Tuesday in his anticipated return from a six-game absence with an injury, but it was Bradley's clutch, Ovechkin-like goal that everyone was toasting in the visitors' dressing room at Madison Square Garden afterward.
"Bradley was our MVP of the night," said defenseman Brian Pothier, whose empty-net goal with 17 seconds left clinched the win. "His fight changed the momentum of the game and scores the goal that seals the deal for us. Every time he had the puck he was doing something with it. And when he didn't have it, he was hitting someone. He was great tonight."
Bradley's goal also bailed out Pothier, who was in the penalty box when Marian Gaborik scored his second goal of the game early in the third period to even the score, 2-2. That's how it remained until Bradley stole the puck from Rangers defenseman Wade Redden late in the period.
After the puck got around Redden, Bradley outraced Redden and his defensive partner, Matt Gilroy, into the Rangers' zone. Bradley did a good job of protecting the puck, waited until goaltender Henrik Lundqvist (22 saves) went down and then snapped the puck over his glove for the decisive score.
"He's got enough goals for the past couple of years," Bradley joked when asked about stealing the spotlight from Ovechkin. "I can have one, I guess."
Bradley provided the Capitals with an offensive boost on a night they needed one.
Although they got one Russian winger back, they lost another.
Alexander Semin was sent home to Arlington to see a doctor, according to Coach Bruce Boudreau, who acknowledged last week that Semin was playing through "some bumps and bruises."
One of the injuries is believed to be to his right wrist, which he hurt in Florida on Nov. 6. The winger was unleashing a shot when he was hit by Keith Ballard and has been wearing a tight wrap around it since. Semin played through the wrist injury while Ovechkin was sidelined and the wrist apparently did not improve.
With a depleted lineup that was missing Semin and Mike Knuble (broken finger), the night got off to a poor start for the Capitals, who fell behind, 1-0, just 86 seconds into the game after Gaborik fired a rebound past Semyon Varlamov (18 saves).