It was just past the midway point of Game 1 of this Eastern Conference first-round playoff series when the familiarity between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers turned hostile. There was a multi-player pile-up; punches were exchanged.

The Rangers emerged from the fracas with a 5-on-3 power play in a 1-1 game and a clear opportunity to seize control. Instead, the Capitals’ penalty killers calmly and confidently dispatched the two-man advantage, then the normal power play that remained, sending the capacity crowd at Verizon Center into a frenzy and shifting the course of the contest.

Less than two minutes later, Marcus Johansson gave Washington a lead. Forty-six seconds after that, Jason Chimera added another goal. The 3-1 advantage would stand up as the final score as the Capitals secured a series-opening win. The two teams will square off again Saturday afternoon at Verizon Center in Game 2.

“Any time you kill a 5-on-3 it definitely gives you momentum,” said defenseman Steve Oleksy, who was part of the group that thwarted the remaining power play. “That that really set the tone for the rest of the game.”

The hustle the Capitals showed in that penalty kill and then in pushing through the successful special teams to gain the lead was also evident from the opening faceoff.

Washington showed how it can dominate a contest from the outset with waves of relentless offensive-zone cycles and meticulous work in the neutral zone to force turnovers. For the better part of the first period the Rangers could barely maintain possession for more than a few seconds, but despite being outshot 11-1 to start the game they would score first.

A failed clearing attempt by Jay Beagle allowed New York to maintain possession and then John Carlson lost a battle for the puck behind the net, allowing speedy Carl Hagelin a wraparound chance. Hagelin’s shot banked off the skate of John Erskine and past Braden Holtby to give New York a 1-0 lead at the 16:44 mark.