Unsung Hero Matt Bradley Paces Capitals Over Rangers

Dave Nichols@@DaveNicholsDSPSenior Analyst INovember 18, 2009

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 17: Aaron Voros #34 of the New York Rangers and Matt Bradley #10 of the Washington Capitals fight during first period action at Madison Square Garden on November 17, 2009 in New York, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Matt Bradley was in the the right place twice last night in the Washington Capitals 4-2 win over the New York Rangers, and he made the right plays both times.
First, he took on Rangers tough guy Aaron Voros, trading wild right hand punches that left the smaller Bradley bloodied about his left eye, requiring six stitches.  Later, he gathered in a loose puck, shielded rookie defenseman Matt Gilroy, and beat Henrik Lundqvist high to the glove side to break a 2-2 tie in the third period.
Bradley, one of the team's unsung heroes, was typically nonchalant about the fight, which seemed to spark the entire Capitals team.  "It didn't bother me. I could feel the blood coming, but there is no pain or anything. It's just one of those things that is more annoying than anything. You have to go in and get stitches and you have to miss five minutes."
"It's amazing," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said of his winger's performance after the game. "He got cut pretty good, came back, and was instrumental in us winning. He's got oodles of character."
The game marked the return of Alex Ovechkin to Washington's line-up.  The two-time Hart Trophy winner had missed the previous six games with an upper body injury, and he returned with a flourish, banging home a one-timer from the point on a power play in the first period for his 15th goal of the season.

Ovechkin also doled out several hits, so it appears the injury will not keep him from playing the physical game he is accustomed to.

Semyon Varlamov made 18 saves on 20 shots to earn the win, and joins a small group of goalies to win 12 of their first 14 NHL decisions.

And, Boudreau hit the 100 win mark for his career, the fourth fastest in NHL history to reach the century mark.

But the game Tuesday night belonged to Bradley, the scrappy fourth line winger.  His fourth goal of the season lifted his team in the waning moments of a close hockey game, and kept them on top of the standings in the Eastern Conference.