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Ovechkin returns, but Bradley ignites Capitals in win over Rangers
Midway through the period, Bradley got into a fight with Aaron Voros and suffered a nasty gash over his left eye. Bradley held his own, and his scrap seemed to spark the Capitals, who had been outplayed in the opening moments.
Then Ovechkin did his thing.
The winger blasted a one-timer from the point on the power play past Lundqvist at 15:06 to even the score and retake the NHL goal-scoring lead with his 15th of the season.
If the goal wasn't enough proof that Ovechkin was completely recovered from the strain near his left shoulder that had sidelined him since Nov. 1, the celebration should have been. Ovechkin dropped to one knee, kissed his left glove and immediately threw up his arm -- something he couldn't do 10 days ago.
"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."
Coach Bruce Boudreau added: "I think he was good for a first game. He can shoot the puck and had seven hits. He didn't exactly ease his way into the lineup."
Ovechkin was not credited with an assist on the Capitals' second goal, scored by Brooks Laich, but he had a hand in setting it up.
Laich gave the Capitals the lead late in the second period on the power play when he went to the net, then jammed a pass from Chris Clark between Lundqvist's pads for a 2-1 lead. Ovechkin had gotten the puck to Clark with a cross-ice pass.
The Capitals, however, couldn't stay out of the penalty box, and couldn't hold the lead, either. Pothier was whistled for high-sticking while killing off a penalty, and Gaborik struck for the second time, snapping a loose puck over Varlamov from a tight angle at 8:23 to knot the score, 2-2.
Then an unlikely hero made the play of the game.
"He was pretty good," Boudreau said of Bradley. "That's what he's got. He's got oodles of character."
Capitals notes: Boudreau became the fastest Capitals coach to 100 victories. . . . Quintin Laing suffered a broken jaw when he was struck by a Michal Rozsival shot in the third period and will be out weeks. He stayed in New York for observation, Boudreau said. . . . Goaltender José Theodore returned to Arlington to tend to family matters and missed the game, so the team recalled rookie Michal Neuvirth from the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears to back up Varlamov. Theodore is expected to return to practice on Wednesday, according to a team official.