NEW YORK, OCT. 19 -- Bryan Murray's 250th National Hockey League coaching victory was one to treasure. The Washington Capitals, two goals behind at the midpoint of the game, stormed back to defeat the New York Rangers tonight, 4-2, before 17,170 at Madison Square Garden.

The Capitals' third straight victory gave them possession of first place in the Patrick Division and, with eight points, they share the overall NHL lead with Boston and Chicago.

Former Ranger Mike Ridley began the comeback with a second-period goal off a rebound, then Dave Christian took center stage in the third period.

With each team a man short, Christian lured most of the Rangers his way and sent a perfect rinkwide pass to Garry Galley, who skated in unchallenged and beat goalie John Vanbiesbrouck.

Only 6:28 remained in regulation when Christian whipped the puck around the boards behind the Rangers' net and broke in front to take Michal Pivonka's pass. Christian put the puck between Vanbiesbrouck's legs and Washington led for the first time. Bengt Gustafsson applied the empty-net clincher with 43 seconds left.

Over the last 16 minutes, the Capitals outshot the Rangers, 13-3.

"That's what we had to do, go at them as much as possible," Christian said. "We made a couple of mistakes early and they took advantage of them, so we had to work a little harder and apply a little more pressure. But we felt we had 40 minutes to get the game back."

A key to Washington's comeback was relentless forechecking by the line of Ridley, Peter Sundstrom and Kelly Miller, ex-Rangers all.

"Even though we were still playing good, we really had to bear down," Ridley said. "Everybody did that and we took the play away.

"The last three games it's come down to the late second and third period and when Bryan's put us together, we've really worked out there.

"We all give something -- Kelly has speed, Peter is quick and not scared to go in the corner. We rotate well down low and we're getting scoring chances."

Ranger defenseman David Shaw went out early in the second period with a separated shoulder -- another boost for the Capitals. Shaw pulled Scott Stevens down behind the New York net and crashed, left shoulder first, into the rear boards.

"When they lost Shaw, they were playing four defensemen and we tried to get all over them," Ridley said. "We wore them down and we controlled the blue line."

This was another exciting up-and-down game, just like the Capitals' come-from-behind 4-3 victory at Capital Centre Saturday. Both teams had some good chances in the first period, but the only goals produced were by Rangers Walt Poddubny on a power play and Kelly Kisio while New York was shorthanded.

Vanbiesbrouck, making his first start since fracturing his jaw in training camp, made some high-quality stops before Ridley finally broke through on a rebound of a shot by Rod Langway. Sundstrom started the play with some fine work in the right-wing corner.

Although trailing, 2-1, and facing a two-minute shortage, the Capitals came out feeling good about themselves for the third period.

"That's the thing about this year," Langway said. "There's no tension, no nervousness. We know we can score. We have the confidence that we'll own the puck most of the time. When we get our speed going, we're tough."

Goalie Clint Malarchuk, who won his fourth straight with a 20-save effort, kept the score close with a big stop on Pierre Larouche early in the third period, while Paul Cavallini served a holding penalty incurred as the second period ended.

Stevens went off for high sticking a minute after Cavallini returned, but Mike Gartner made an outstanding play to knock Larouche off the puck and lure him into a holding penalty that evened the sides.

Galley, who had been in the penalty box for New York's first score and missed an open net late in the second, atoned with the tying goal.

"With four on four, there was more room out there and Davy {Christian} cleared things out even more," Galley said. "John {Vanbiesbrouck} went down in a butterfly before I got there and I waited and went upstairs. I was happy to get another chance after I missed the other one."

The rest of the way, the Capitals swarmed all over Vanbiesbrouck, outshooting the Rangers by 10-2 over a 9 1/2-minute stretch. Once again, Christian came up with the big play.

"I was a little ahead of Scotty {Stevens} and he slipped me the puck," Christian said. "I was looking for him to go to the net, but he went behind, so I played it around the boards and went to the front of the net. Scotty shoved it to Michal {Pivonka} and he made a nice pass. It was a good one to pull out."

Murray said, "It was a players' game and our guys worked so damn hard. The third period we just blitzed them."