Washington Capitals center Jeff Halpern is hardly a feared fighter, but the average-sized center has not backed away from physical play in his four-year career. From the first shift yesterday, Halpern was in the middle of almost every encounter in a penalty-filled 7-2 victory over the New York Rangers at MCI Center.

Halpern punched Bobby Holik, one of the premier power forwards in the game, repeatedly in the head after taking an elbow to the face 51 seconds into the game. Halpern earned 19 penalty minutes in the exchange, bringing his season total to 70 minutes, second on the team to rugged defenseman Brendan Witt. Halpern, listed at 6 feet, 201 pounds, had the Rangers chasing him around the whole game, Eric Lindros in particular.

"The [Rangers] had a reason to run around, and Jeff was the reason," winger Jaromir Jagr said. "Today he was the number one star for us. He won the game for us. That's why we had so many power plays -- Jeff Halpern played so hard and drew so many power plays for us."

The Capitals went 5 for 9 on the power play in the game; the franchise record for power-play goals in a game is seven.

Henry Out, Peat Up

Enforcer Alex Henry was placed on injured reserve with the flu and must miss Tuesday's home game against St. Louis as well. With Henry out and a notoriously physical opponent in town, the Capitals recalled tough guy Stephen Peat from the minors. Peat is scheduled to return to Portland, Maine, when Henry is activated. . . .

Team captain Steve Konowalchuk, who missed his second straight game with a groin strain, is eligible to come off injured reserved Thursday, which would prompt another roster move. . . .

The Capitals plan to recall defenseman J.F. Fortin from his minor league conditioning assignment on Thursday. . . . Peter Bondra notched his 20th goal yesterday, becoming the first player in franchise history to do so in 12 straight seasons. . . . Kip Miller became the eighth Capital to reach 10 goals this season; only St Louis (nine) has more players. . . . Defenseman Rick Berry was scratched for the fifth straight game. . . . Forward Josh Green was scratched for the first time since being claimed off waivers from the Rangers 10 days ago.