NEW YORK | Matt Bradley was battered and bloodied, but he earned his vengeance.
Bradley had the game-winner late in the third period Tuesday night and the Washington Capitals celebrated the return of Alex Ovechkin with a 4-2 victory — coach Bruce Boudreau’s 100th NHL win — against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Bradley poked the puck past much-maligned Rangers defenseman Wade Redden along the right wall and then skated around him to collect it and skate in on New York netminder Henrik Lundqvist.
Even with Matt Gilroy leaning on him, Bradley roofed a snap shot past Lundqvist with 4:51 left in the third period. Bradley had to go the locker room for medical attention after a fight with Aaron Voros in the first period.
Lundqvist is one of the league’s elite goalies, but Bradley also scored twice against him during Game 5 of these two teams’ first-round playoff series in April. Brian Pothier added an empty-netter for insurance with 16.7 seconds left.
Brooks Laich gave Washington a 2-1 lead late in the second period with the Caps’ second extra-man marker of the evening. After Ovechkin sent the puck to Chris Clark in the right circle, he centered a pass for Mike Green, who had darted in front of the crease.
Green’s one-timer from close range was unsuccessful, but Laich followed behind him and poked the puck between Lundqvist’s legs at 15:44. Laich has nine goals this season, and a team-high five of them have come on the power play.
Washington went 6-for-14 on the power play in the six games Ovechkin missed, and the Caps kept clicking against the Rangers with two extra-man tallies in four power-play opportunities.
Marian Gaborik’s second of the night leveled the score 8:23 into the third. He collected the rebound of a PA Parenteau shot near the goal line to the left of Washington netminder Semyon Varlamov and snapped it past a mass of bodies.
This contest did not begin the way the Caps were hoping for. Gaborik punched home the rebound of a Dan Girardi shot 86 seconds in — the Rangers led 1-0 before the puck ever crossed their own blue line.
Ovechkin needed a little more than 15 minutes to punctuate his return. He was up front on the team’s first power play of the game but moved back to the point for the second and blasted a shot from the top of the circles past Lundqvist.
It was Ovechkin’s 15th of the season, which moved him into sole possession of first place in the NHL in goals — until Gaborik joined him with his second tally.
While Ovechkin returned to the lineup countryman Alexander Semin had to be removed from it. Semin practiced Monday but was unable to participate in the morning skate or play. Semin took an awkward hit from Florida’s Keith Ballard while trying to shoot 11 days ago and has been wearing extra protection on his wrist since.
Jose Theodore also left the team for personal reasons, but a team official said the goaltender is expected back Wednesday for practice. Jay Beagle and Michal Neuvirth were recalled from Hershey — Beagle played in place of Semin and Neuvirth was on the bench to back up Varlamov.