NEW YORK -- The Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers continued to skate in different directions last night.
The Capitals, boosted by a four-goal third period, including two from recent call-ups Steve Konowalchuk and Keith Jones, edged closer to Patrick Division respectability with a 7-4 victory that extended their unbeaten streak to four.
The Rangers' third-period collapse followed Monday's embarrassing home loss to the expansion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Grumblings about the lack of morale and rumors of trades filled the locker room of the Rangers, who have won only two of their past seven.
The Capitals were talking another tune after their first victory against a division rival in six tries.
"It gets a big monkey off our back," said Jones, who fended off two defensemen to poke a rebound under goaltender Mike Richter to make it 4-4 with 13:53 to play. "We knew coming in we were playing well and this is a huge win. We're going to get on a roll and just keep working."
Konowalchuk would not be outdone by his fellow Oct. 30 call-up, and he got the game-winner with 5:04 left.
Camped on the goal mouth, he took a perfect feed from Paul MacDermid and lifted the puck past Rangers goalie Mike Richter.
"Those two kids play big," said Capitals coach Terry Murray. "That is the kind of performances you need from the entire team to win games like this."
Todd Krygier added an insurance goal on a breakaway with 1:52 left for his second goal of the game before Kelly Miller got an open-net score in the last minute.
Backup Jim Hrivnak has been in the nets for the winning revival, replacing the injured Don Beaupre for two victories in the last three games.
This time though Hrivnak's winning formula was a little out of the ordinary. After being shredded for three goals on the Rangers' first five shots, he was sat down by Murray.
"I just wanted to break the momentum," Murray said of inserting rookie Byron Dafoe for his NHL debut at 11:10 of the first period. "I wanted to give Hrivnak a chance to catch his breath and told him just one stoppage and he would be back in."
Though he was beaten once more in a frenzied first period, Hrivnak kept the Capitals in the game through the second period and preserved the win with some big stops in the closing minutes.
"It was a pretty good move on his part," Hrivnak said of Murray's strategy. "It gave me some seconds to calm down and get the game back in perspective."
"He's so calm out there," defenseman Calle Johansson said of Hrivnak. "He just stays there and lets the puck come to him. He has been playing great."
The Capitals had closed to 4-3 on Dale Hunter's goal 3:03 into the second period.
The Rangers scored the last three goals of the first period in a closing 10-minute flurry, starting with the second of Darren Turcotte's two goals.
NOTES: The Caps will conclude their three-game trip at New Jersey tomorrow. . . . Tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King were in the stands.