Capitals 3, Rangers 2

Alex Ovechkin's face is obscured by a tinted visor, but there was no masking the rookie's emotion after he scored the game-winning goal.

Ovechkin flipped in a rebound on the power play midway through the third period, and goaltender Olie Kolzig shut down the New York Rangers in the final harried moments of yesterday's matinee at MCI Center, where the Washington Capitals skated away with a 3-2 victory.

After Ovechkin scored, the standout left wing dipped to one knee, kissed his glove and pumped his fists. It was quite a celebration, but considering what Ovechkin and his teammates went through over the weekend, it was also quite understandable.

"I saw the rebound and when the puck came to me, I said, 'Oh my God, puck,' " said Ovechkin. "I must shoot."

The goal was Ovechkin's third and gives him a point in each of the Capitals' four games. Capitals right wing Petr Sykora and defenseman Steve Eminger each tallied their first NHL goals, and Kolzig made 30 saves, including a few scintillating stops in a meeting between two rebuilding teams that could find themselves battling for last place in April.

"We struggled the last two games against Atlanta," Eminger said, referring to the Capitals' back-to-back 7-3 and 8-1 losses to the Thrashers. "Coming back home, we wanted to give a good effort in front of the home fans."

And the ones who came -- the announced attendance was 10,760, but was likely half that -- witnessed an exciting final 20 minutes 1 second. The NHL counts tickets distributed to determine its attendance figures.

The thrills began with Eminger equalizing the game at 2 with less than one second remaining in the second period. The offensive-minded defenseman moved toward the net and fired a rebound over Rangers goaltender Kevin Weekes's glove. Washington forward Brian Sutherby launched the odd-man rush by crushing Jaromir Jagr behind the Washington goal.

Ovechkin, on a five-on-three power play, then put Washington ahead for the first time, and Kolzig made sure it stayed that way.

The Capitals' veteran goalie had to be spectacular down the stretch, particularly on two power plays in the final eight minutes.

His first big save came on Jason Ward, who appeared to have a sure goal on his stick. But Kolzig rolled over in the crease and reached behind him to make the stop. Kolzig tweaked a hip muscle on the play, but said later that he expects to be fine.

Kolzig made another heroic save in the final seconds, when he turned away a shot by Jagr, the former Capital who was booed each time he touched the puck.

"In order for us to give ourselves a chance to win, we have to stay out of the box," Kolzig said. "And if we do get in the box, that's the way we have to kill them."

In an attempt to jump-start his team's anemic attack, Washington Coach Glen Hanlon scrambled the offensive lines; he began by dismantling what had been his most productive line of Ovechkin, Dainius Zubrus and Jeff Halpern. Zubrus played on the third line with Sutherby and Chris Clark. Ovechkin and Halpern, meantime, skated with Brian Willsie.

"When you win you are always happy," Hanlon said of his lineup changes.

After a scoreless -- and sloppily played -- first period, Jagr opened the scoring in the second period with a five-on-three power-play goal at 2:06. The winger blasted the puck from the top of the right circle past Kolzig for his third goal in four games.

Sykora, who was a healthy scratch Saturday, tied the game about four minutes later. Sykora, Jeff Friesen and Andrew Cassels skated in three-on-one, and after Weekes stopped Friesen's shot, Sykora backhanded the puck into the net.

Marcel Hossa restored the Rangers' edge to 2-1 with a shot that trickled between Kolzig's pads.

After the game, Ovechkin was asked why he started wearing the dark visor two games ago. The visor gained him notoriety in international competition.

"Maybe it is lucky," Ovechkin said. "We will see."

Capitals Notes: Left wing Matt Pettinger, right wing Stephen Peat and defenseman Nolan Yonkman were healthy scratches.

Caps rookie Alex Ovechkin, top, celebrates with Jamie Heward after scoring in the third period.Carl Jeffers and crew begin converting MCI Center from a hockey arena after the Capitals' win to a basketball arena for the Wizards' preseason game.