LANDOVER -- The New York Rangers played last night the way the Washington Capitals usually do.
The Rangers took an early lead and dominated 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 trails the division-leading Capitals by five points, blistered goalie Don Beaupre with a season-high 43 shots -- 32 of which came in the first two periods.
"We wanted to jump on Washington early and also wanted to take their defensemen, who have scored 31 goals, out of the game," said Rangers coach Roger Neilson. "When you're playing a team as good as the Capitals, you don't expect to be able to do it. But we did.
"They are a real fast team and a good skating team, and bad ice hurt them. Bad ice is nothing new for us. [The ice is normally bad at Madison Square Garden.] We checked well the last seven or eight minutes when Washington tried to tie the score. We had lost three in a row to them, and this was a very big win for us. We had a lot of opportunities to widen our lead, but I don't know if our scorers aren't good enough or their goalie is great, but we didn't until the final minute."
Mark Messier, who signed a $13 million contract this week, led the Rangers with three goals. Brian Leetch had three assists.
"It's a divisional game and we didn't want to go 0-4 against a team in our division," said Messier. "It was a huge win for us. We played pressure hockey for 60 minutes. Washington was the best team in the league for 30 games, and we're happy to be able to steal a win from them."
The Rangers built a 4-1 edge by midway through the third period before 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, but the Rangers defense, anchored by goalie Mike Richter, held fast.
"It was the Rangers game tonight," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "They played a hard game and stuck to their game plan. Beaupre had a great game in the nets and kept us in it. But Messier is a great player. I can't say that we didn't play well. We started to put things together in the third period, but we just ran out of time."
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."
Ciccarelli said: "Give New York credit. They played very well. They were right on top of their game. They checked well and didn't let us get the puck in deep. They took our game away from us."
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 was outshot in the first period, 14-9.
NOTES: Leading Washington vote-getters for this season's NHL All-Star Game are left wing Miller, 15th among wingers; 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.
NY 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.