WASHINGTON -- One year after feeling the sting of a seven-game elimination at the hands of the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals took the first step toward evening the score.
A three-goal flurry in the span of slightly more than eight minutes midway through the second period on Thursday night sent the Capitals to a 3-1 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Rangers.
Alex Ovechkin scored on the power play and Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera followed with even-strength goals just 46 seconds apart as the third-seeded Capitals took the opening game of the series at the Verizon Center.
"It's important," Ovechkin said. "We get the (series) lead and right now we have to forget it and get ready for the next game."
The series resumes in the nation's capital on Saturday afternoon.
Carl Hagelin scored for the sixth-seeded Rangers, who took six minor penalties and gave the NHL's No. 1 power play five man-advantages.
"We can't take that many penalties in the game," Capitals coach John Tortorella said. " ... Hopefully, we will discipline ourselves next game."
After four long days of practices and meetings, the Capitals came out with better jump, getting off nine shots before the Rangers recorded their first.
Yet it was Hagelin who scored the first goal of the series 16:44 into the first period. He swung around the back of the net and fired a shot that went off the skate of John Erskine and inside the far post.
It was Hagelin's first playoff goal in 18 career games and it silenced the sellout crowd.
The Capitals and their fans came to life in the second period, with Ovechkin igniting the fire with a power-play goal.
The NHL's leading goal scorer in the regular season, Ovechkin converged on an errant Mike Green shot that caromed off the boards and in front of the Rangers' net. Ovechkin hammered a shot past Henrik Lundqvist for his 32nd career playoff goal in 52 games.
Ovechkin's goal got the Caps back into the game, but it might have been their penalty kill that won it.
The Capitals killed off back-to-back penalties to Martin Erat and Eric Fehr midway through the second period, setting the stage for goals 46 seconds apart by Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera.
"Big kill," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "I thought that breakaway that (Braden Holtby) stopped on Hagelin was the big one, though. The penalties, we killed them very well."
Johansson's goal came after Steve Oleksy sprung him free with a lead pass. The 22-year-old Swede snapped a wrist shot off Lundqvist's catching glove and behind him for Washington's first lead of the playoffs with 5:39 remaining in the second period.
Forty-six seconds later, Chimera celebrated his 34th birthday with a no-look, turnaround shot from the left half-wall that found its way inside Lundqvistt's left post. It was Chimera's eighth career playoff goal; six of them have come against the Rangers.
"I have to be more solid on the ice there," Lundqvist said. "I probably expected a pass and maybe I was a little slow to react, but it doesn't matter. I have to stop that."
NOTES: This is the third straight playoff meeting between the Rangers and Capitals and the fourth time they've met in five years. Since 2006, teams that have won Game 1 of the first round are 38-18 (.679) in those series. The Capitals are now 22-15 in playoff Game 1s. ... The Rangers are now 44-48 record in series openers. The Rangers have won eight of their last 11 first-round playoff series. ... The Capitals had the No. 1 power play in the NHL this season and the Rangers were the least penalized team in the league. ... Ovechkin received a standing ovation when it was announced on the scoreboard that he was awarded with his third Rocket Richard Trophy with an NHL-high of 32 goals in the regular season. ... Capitals right winger Joel Ward returned to the lineup after missing the previous nine games with a left knee bruise suffered on April 7. ... Washington was without forward Brooks Laich (groin). ... The Rangers were without forwards Brian Boyle (leg), Ryan Clowe (leg) and Derek Dorsett (broken clavicle) and defenseman Marc Staal (eye). Boyle, Staal and Dorsett are skating and the Rangers could have Boyle and Staal before the end of the series. ... The two teams will practice on Friday and return to game action Saturday in Washington.