WASHINGTON -- In Brian Boyle's mind, the year started Sunday.
"I tried to start a new season, basically," said Boyle, the 6-7 Rangers center who hadn't scored since last year's playoffs -- a 33-game stretch -- and was firmly in the doghouse owned by coach John Tortorella, who said Boyle needed to do "everything better."
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Tortorella, who benched Boyle against Ottawa on Friday after sitting him for three games last month, gave him another opportunity against the Capitals, and Boyle responded. His second-period goal proved to be the winner in a 4-1 victory at Verizon Center in which backup goaltender Martin Biron, another player given an opportunity, responded with 28 saves.
"I tried to put myself in positions to do the things that I can do well," said Boyle, who hit the post just before he cranked a low 40-foot slapper past Braden Holtby's glove on a delayed penalty to Alex Ovechkin to snap a 1-1 tie at 10:53. "I had a long talk with Sully [assistant coach Mike Sullivan] about a lot of different things. I know what I should be and what I'm supposed to be. If I'm going the way I should, we're a better team. I've got to be consistent now. That's my focus."
It was Ovechkin who lost his focus, first tripping Ryan Callahan, then holding Ryan McDonagh, and was called for two minor penalties. The first was wiped out by Boyle's drought-breaker, and 41 seconds later, with the Rangers on a power play, Callahan tipped Rick Nash's one-timer from the right boards, which prompted coach Adam Oates to replace Holtby with Michal Neuvirth. Ovechkin also missed a mid-ice check on Derek Stepan's first-period goal, a backhanded bank off Holtby's skate, that tied the score at 1.
Biron, starting his fourth game (2-1-1), was victimized at 2:16 of the first period on a long shot by Steve Oleksy, but the veteran netminder was terrific after that.
"I got caught in between, I thought maybe [Joel] Ward was going to tip it, and so I'm waiting," Biron said. "It was such a slow shot, he swung and missed and I didn't react to the shot. Not the best way to start a game."
Biron and the penalty-kill maintained the two-goal margin on a short five-on-three near the end of the second period in which he denied Ward at the post. McDonagh, who had two assists, stopped Jason Chimera's rebound and Biron turned away Nicklas Backstrom.
"He was big on the five-on-three," Tortorella said. "When he let the first one in, I was thinking, there could be seven or eight going in there. But in a key part of the game, he made some big saves, and he really does settle a team down. He helps us get out of our zone because he moves the puck so well. So he wins a game, gets Hank [Lundqvist] a day off. I'm really happy the way he rebounded."
Brad Richards, with his second goal in two games since returning from neck and back soreness suffered on a dangerous hit by Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta, put the game out of reach at 18:48 of the third.
Nash and Carl Hagelin each had two assists.
"I thought we played in spurts against Ottawa [a 3-2 loss at home] but had some good minutes," Tortorella said. "I think we're beginning to sort ourselves out as far as how we have to play."