LANDOVER -- The New York Rangers played last night the way the Washington Capitals usually do.
The Rangers took an early lead and dominated the game for the first 50 minutes on their way to a 5-3 Patrick Division victory over the Capitals before 17,743 at the Capital Centre.
New York, which picked up two points on the division-leading Capitals, blistered goalie Don Beaupre with a season-high 42 shots -- 32 of which came in the first two periods.
Mark Messier, who early in the week signed a $13 million contract, led the Rangers with three goals and Brian Leetch had three assists.
The Rangers built a 4-1 lead midway through the third period and then the Capitals rallied. Dino Ciccarelli and Alan May scored in a 23-second span to cut the lead to 4-3 with 8:50 remaining. Washington had many chances to tie the score but could not crack the Rangers' defense, anchored by goalie Mike Richter.
Messier's empty-net goal in the final minute sealed the victory. The loss was only the fourth in 13 Capital Centre games for Washington.
"The ice was bad and this really cut down on our team speed," said Kelly Miller, who scored Washington's first goal. "Speed was something we needed tonight and the ice didn't let us use it."
The Rangers, attacking the Washington goal with a vengeance in the early going, took a 1-0 lead on Messier's goal at 7:20 of the first period. Tony Amonte passed the puck out into the slot from the rear boards and Messier, left unguarded, ripped a shot from close range past Beaupre.
The Capitals had their problems getting started, managing just one shot in the first 13 minutes and failing to get a shot on goal during two power plays. Washington ended the first period being outshot, 14-9.
New York put 18 shots on goal in the second period and two of them found the net to boost the Rangers into a 3-1 lead.
The Capitals tied the score at 1 at the 42-second mark of the second period on Miller's slap shot from the top of the slot after a nifty drop pass from Randy Burridge.
The Rangers regained the lead at 2:17 on Messier's second goal of the game during a power play. Beaupre stopped Brian Leetch's shot, but the Capitals failed to clear the rebound and Messier pounded the puck into the cage.
Less than three minutes later the Rangers' lead was 3-1 as Joe Cirella scored his first goal of the season, putting the rebound of a shot by Adam Graves past Beaupre from the right circle.
NOTES: Leading Washington vote getters for this season's NHL All-Star Game are left wing Kelly Miller, 15th among wingers; Don Beaupre, ninth among goalies; and Kevin Hatcher, 12th among defensemen . . . D Rod Langway (toes) and D Shawn Chambers (knee) missed last night's game and C Tim Bergland and LW Dave Tippett were scratched. The Rangers scratched RW Tie Domi and D Randy Moller . . . The Capitals continue to lead the NHL in power-play proficiency with 23.2 percent.
c,12p2,gereg,6,6.5NY Rangers 1 2 2 -- 5
Washington 0 1 2 -- 3
First period--1, New York, Messier 10 (Amonte, Leetch), 7:20. Penalties--Hatcher, Was (high-sticking), :16; Messier, NY (holding), 8:11; Djoos, NY (hooking), 10:41; Leetch, NY (holding), 14:49; King, NY (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:09; Hunter, Was (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:09.
Second period--2, Washington, Miller 5 (Burridge, Iafrate), :42. 3, New York, Messier 11 (Ogrodnick, Leetch), 2:17 (pp). 4, New York, Cirella 1 (Graves, Ogrodnick), 5:04. Penalties--Ridley, Was (hooking), 1:39; Beukeboom, NY, minor-major (high-sticking, fighting), 4:49; Kypreos, Was, minor-major (high-sticking, fighting), 4:49; Kocur, NY (roughing), 9:37; May, Was (roughing), 9:37; Amonte, NY (high-sticking), 11:02; Hunter, Was (cross-checking), 11:02; Hatcher, Was (hooking), 15:28.
Third period--5, New York, Nemchinov 13 (Erixon, Leetch), 9:46. 6, Washington, Ciccarelli 16 (Hunter, Druce), 10:47. 7, Washington, May 5 (Ridley, Miller), 11:10. 8, New York, Messier 12 (Graves), 19:38 (en). Penalties--Sabourin, Was (interference), :37; Nemchinov, NY (hooking), 3:37; Kypreos, Was (slashing), 7:05.
Shots on goal--New York 14-18-11--43. Washington 9-7-7--23. Power-play opportunities--New York 1 of 5; Washington 0 of 4. Goalies--New York, Richter, 10-5-1 (22 shots-19 saves), Vanbiesbrouck (11:10 3rd, 0-0), Richter (11:31 3rd, 1-1). Washington, Beaupre, 9-5-0 (42-38). A--17,743. Referee--Bill McCreary. Linesmen--Wayne Bonney, Ray Scapinello.