John Vanbiesbrouck played another solid game in goal for the New York Rangers. The problem for him last night at Capital Centre, though, was that practically no one in front of him did.

Breakaways and two-on-one situations were the order of the evening and, even missing a number of golden opportunities, the Washington Capitals converted enough to win, 8-1, and square the Patrick Division championship series at one game apiece.

"It's not a nightmare," said a calm Vanbiesbrouck. Then he smiled a bit and added, "But it does challenge you a little bit more."

Rangers Coach Ted Sator had no great explanations for the peppering his goaltender took or the lopsided loss.

"If you want to know what I've been doing for the last 10 minutes," Sator said, "I've been sitting in the corner with my dunce cap on."

Asked if he thought he made a tactical error, Sator said no. Sator was trying to throw a little laughter into a laughable situation. He couldn't put his finger on why his defensemen, and whole team really, allowed the Capitals a dozen or so wonderful openings.

"It was one of those nights when Washington did everything right and we did everything wrong," Sator said. "It was across the board. We all came up a nickel short."

The Capitals came out flying and it didn't take long to register with the Rangers.

"You could see," said Rangers defenseman James Patrick, "that their feeling was that there was no way they were going to be down 2-0 going into Madison Square Garden, and they played that way."

The Capitals wasted no time in putting the body to the Rangers, especially their defensemen, who left their goaltender vulnerable.

"There was no doubt we had to bump their defensemen," said Capitals Coach Bryan Murray. "I suggested that to them and it worked pretty well."

Said Patrick, "They set the pace in the first period. In the first game, they hit for the first 10 minutes, but let up after that. Tonight, they went two periods taking the body."

Patrick attributed the breakaways to Washington's play in the neutral zone.

"Their transition game was bang, bang," said Patrick, who was on the ice for three of the last four Washington goals. "They got three or four breakaways while we were changing, and we were trying to stick-check in the neutral zone."

The lopsided score didn't seem to bother the Rangers much. The next two games of the best-of-seven series will be Monday and Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

"It doesn't really matter, 2-1 or 8-1," Patrick said.

The Capitals outshot the Rangers by 16-4 in the first period, after which they led, 3-0. In the second, the Rangers managed to outshoot the Capitals, 12-10, and scored their lone goal against Pete Peeters, but Washington still had more good chances.

"It was tough to deal with," Vanbiesbrouck said of the onslaught.

"They came out very tenaciously and were banging hard right from the start. Then they made some great stick tape-to-tape passes and forced the issue."

The fifth Washington goal -- mercifully, the last against Vanbiesbrouck -- came on a New York power play.

Glen Hanlon played the third period, which didn't really bother Vanbiesbrouck, who despite the blowout, seemed composed.

"Glen needed the work," he said, "and I needed the rest."