ALEX OVECHKIN'S franchise-record 31st career playoff goal got the Capitals started before less-heralded teammates Marcus Johansson and Jason Chimera scored 46 seconds apart, and Washington beat the visiting New York Rangers, 3-1, last night in Game 1 of their first-round series.

Ovechkin, a two-time MVP who led the NHL with 32 goals this season, crashed the net to score on a power play about 7 minutes into the second period to tie the game for the Capitals, the third-seeded team in the Eastern Conference.

Carl Hagelin had put sixth-seeded New York ahead 1-0 in the first period - the only puck that made it past Braden Holtby, who finished with 35 saves.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is tomorrow in Washington.

It's the third consecutive season these two teams are facing each other in the playoffs and the fourth time in 5 years. The Rangers eliminated the Capitals in seven games in the second round last season.

But Washington is playing a livelier brand of hockey under first-time NHL head coach Adam Oates, a Hockey Hall of Fame forward who shifted Ovechkin from left wing to right wing and helped design the Capitals' league-best power play.

The Rangers drew the fewest penalties of any team this season, but they had already accumulated four by early in the second period, and Ovechkin capitalized on No. 4.

In another game * 

At Montreal, Craig Anderson made 48 saves in a spectacular goaltending performance as the Ottawa Senators beat the Canadiens, 4-2, in Game 1 of their playoff series.

Jakob Silfverberg and Marc Methot scored early in the third period and gave Ottawa a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 2 set for tonight at the Bell Centre.

Erik Karlsson and Guillaume Latendresse also scored for the Senators, who were outshot 50-31 but saw Anderson easily win the goaltending duel with Carey Price, who was beaten twice through the pads.

Montreal center Lars Eller was wheeled off on a stretcher bleeding heavily from the nose and was taken to a hospital with what the team said were head and facial injuries after he was caught with a shoulder to the face on an open-ice hit from Senators defenseman Eric Gryba.

Noteworthy * 

Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom and defenseman Clayton Stoner did not practice, increasing the possibility they will be unavailable for Game 2 of their first-round playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks. Wild forward Jason Pominville also missed practice and will not travel to Chicago for today's game. He missed Game 1.

Coach Mike Yeo says if Backstrom is unable to go, Josh Harding will get the start tonight after he made 35 saves in Minnesota's 2-1 overtime loss in the opener Tuesday night.

Blackhawks center Dave Bolland and goalie Ray Emery have been ruled out for Game 2 due to lower-body injuries. Emery skated yesterday, and coach Joel Quenneville says both players could travel to Minnesota for Game 3 on Sunday.

* Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference was suspended for one game for an illegal check to Toronto forward Mikhail Grabovski's head during Game 1 of their first-round series.

* A fascinating part of Gordie Howe's life has been turned into a TV movie. "Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story" premieres tomorrow night on the Hallmark Channel. The focus of the film is on the World Hockey Association's 1973-74 season, when the then 45-year-old Howe came out of retirement to play for the Houston Aeros with two of his sons, Mark and Marty.