NEW YORK - This is the Marian Gaborik the New York Rangers hope they see all season.
Just two pre-season games into his Broadway debut, the Rangers' best offensive threat is showing the form that made him a 40-goal scorer with the Minnesota Wild.
Gaborik scored his first two goals with the Rangers, including an unassisted short-handed goal in the second period, and Christopher Higgins snapped a tie with 1:10 left to lift New York to a 3-2 exhibition victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.
In two games after shaking off groin soreness that developed during training camp, Gaborik has two goals and two assists.
He helped set up the winning goal, that was created when teammate Brandon Dubinsky was levelled in front by Milan Jurcina. The puck popped free and caromed off Higgins' stick and past goalie Jose Theodore.
"It is exciting," said Dubinsky, who made his pre-season debut after a long contract negotiation produced a deal last week. "(Gaborik) is one of those game-breakers that we didn't have last year. He is a guy who is going to score big goals for us."
Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves for the Rangers, who blew a 3-1 series lead to the Capitals in the first round of last season's playoffs. Theodore stopped 21 shots.
Gaborik gave the Rangers (3-2-1) a pair of one-goal leads in the second period, but New York couldn't protect them.
The Rangers' top scoring threat hopped onto the ice and immediately had the puck bounce to him at the Washington blue line after Higgins forced John Erskine into a neutral-zone turnover.
Gaborik darted in alone and snapped a shot from the slot that easily beat Theodore between the pads 36 seconds into the period during Michal Rozsival's hooking penalty.
"I knew I was going to celebrate with him because he is such a phenomenal talent," Higgins said. "It is pretty much a guaranteed goal."
Washington tied it after it appeared that Rangers rookie defenceman Matt Gilroy thwarted a good scoring chance by Alex Ovechkin. Gilroy deftly knocked the puck off the stick of the two-time NHL MVP, but his pass to Artem Anisimov went awry.
Alexander Semin got control of the puck, skated behind the net and came out with the puck on his backhand. He switched to the forehand as he glided backward into the right circle, and at the dot snapped off a hard wrist shot that beat Lundqvist at 8:51 for an unassisted goal.
Just seven seconds later, new Rangers tough guy Donald Brashear - who has yet to win over the Madison Square Garden crowd because of previous actions with Philadelphia and Washington - dropped his gloves for his first fight with New York.
It didn't go well as 31-year-old Brandon Sugden dropped him with three punches before falling on top. Brashear, six years older, got some revenge in a third-period rematch, landing several hard shots in a lengthy bout.
Gaborik restored the Rangers' lead with his second of the night and the pre-season at 12:37, finding a loose puck in front during a delayed Washington penalty and shooting it past Theodore.
"If I play with him, I will try to get him the puck as much as I can in scoring areas and I will find myself some assists," Dubinsky said.
Keith Aucoin tied it 2-2 with three minutes left in the second, steering in a pass from Ovechkin at the end of a 3-on-1 rush.
Washington (3-2) beat the Blackhawks 6-2 at home on Wednesday.
"It was as close to a regular-season game as you can have," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "The tempo and the intensity made it a real good test for us. The game was pretty even for the most part, but they scored at the end."
The teams will finish the pre-season against each other Sunday in Washington.