After a one-hour workout yesterday at Capital Centre, the Washington Capitals used a lot of different ways to say the same things about their 4-1 victory against the Minnesota North Stars Saturday night.

The most important thing about the game was:

"Winning," Coach Bryan Murray said.

"Getting two points," winger Dale Hunter said.

"Playing an ideal game for us," defenseman Larry Murphy said.

"Playing good, solid defensive hockey," defenseman Rod Langway said.

The Capitals, who entered the contest with a four-game losing streak, got some good goalkeeping from Pete Peeters early and then, in the third period, took advantage of two penalties and one big mistake by the North Stars to win.

Washington, which allowed Minnesota just 23 shots on goal, ended a 1-1 tie on Mike Gartner's power play goal 1:19 into the third period and then put the game away on Mike Ridley's power-play goal with 6:46 remaining and Kelly Miller's goal six seconds after the ensuing faceoff.

So yesterday the Capitals were feeling good about themselves. They say they are ready to resume playing the type of hockey for which they are known, the type they believe will allow them to contend for the Stanley Cup.

"If we do all year what we did {Saturday} night," Murphy said, "we'll win the Stanley Cup."

"We played very well throughout," said Murray, who was particularly pleased with the way Peeters, Gartner, Miller, Murphy and Hunter played. "We worked hard; we checked hard and we cut down on mistakes. Probably as much as anything, the difference was that we didn't have a breakdown at a key moment and when they made mistakes, we took advantage."

And what if the Capitals had done all of those things and lost?

"It would have been a very tough loss," Murray said.

It would have given the Capitals their first five-game losing streak since October 1983, when they started the season 0-7. And if further perspective is needed, a loss Saturday night would have left the Capitals just two points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers in the Patrick Division -- and everybody knows how poorly the Flyers are playing right now.

"They really lost, 6-0, to Toronto in their own building?" Hunter said, still unable to believe what had happened to the Flyers Saturday afternoon at the Spectrum.

It was the third time Philadelphia (5-11-3) had been shut out this season, the second time at home. The Flyers are averaging just 2.57 goals per game, worst in the NHL. Their top goaltender, Ron Hextall, has followed a Vezina Award-winning season with a 2-7-2 start and 3.94 goals-against average.

And now, General Manager Bob Clarke, who has been trying to remain patient, appears to have had enough.

Neither Clarke nor Coach Mike Keenan would talk specifics beyond looking to their minor league club in Hershey and not ruling out trades.

Said Keenan: "We need some help, put it that way."

And the Capitals know very well that if Philadelphia is not immune to an extended slump, neither are they.

"They are into what we are hoping to avoid," Murphy said.

"But," he hastily added, "I'm sure they will be there at the end. They are too good a team not to be."

Theoretically, so are the Capitals. And they know they will have to play as well as they did Saturday night in a lot more games -- or else.

"If we keep letting teams like Pittsburgh, the Devils and the Rangers believe they can win the division, the more incentive they are going to have to play," Murray said. "We have to put some distance between them and ourselves."