NEW YORK, OCT. 10 -- John Druce and the Washington Capitals tonight returned to Madison Square Garden, the scene of their greatest triumphs.

Druce, who helped expell the New York Rangers from the playoffs last season with his surprising goal-scoring, registered his first goal of this season. But that was all the history the Capitals were to relive.

Darren Turcotte scored the game's first goal, and then put in a shorthanded effort in the third period to lift the Rangers to a 4-2 victory in front of 15,214.

"Last year is over, but they were the team that beat us out," said Rangers right wing Joe Mullen. "Maybe it helps pyschologically."

Besides Turcotte's two goals, Troy Mallette and John Ogrodnick scored for the Rangers, who overcame a 2-1 deficit. Peter Zezel got his third goal in three games for the Capitals, who took that 2-1 lead on Druce's goal. Bob Rouse got his team-high fifth assist on the play.

Druce's star shone brightest in this building last spring. After scoring three goals in the Capitals' first-round victory over New Jersey, he came up with nine against the Rangers. The last was an overtime goal in the fifth and deciding game. To be booed in this building is sometimes an honor, and Druce heard his share tonight.

"I just feel good here," Druce said. "I don't like the ice, but I just feel good here."

Druce converted the one goal, but he and the Capitals missed several other chances. Although the shot totals seemed a tad inflated, they nonetheless showed the Capitals with a 42-17 edge. But they couldn't get enough of them past Rangers goalie Mike Richter, who was superb.

The Rangers didn't get a shot on Capitals goalie Mike Liut until 8:53 was left in the first period, but Turcotte one-timed a pass from Brian Leetch and the Rangers were up.

"It was a tough game to play when you don't get a lot of work," Liut said.

This was the second loss in three games for Liut and the Capitals, who will return home to face Winnipeg Friday and then the Rangers on Saturday.

New York didn't forecheck particularly hard, so the Capitals were able to skate out of their zone with relative ease. But when they couldn't convert against Richter, they seemed to press a bit too hard and got away from the basics.

"When that happens," Coach Terry Murray said, "they attack back the other way."

The Rangers and Capitals were roughly even last spring in terms of hard hitting and fighting. Both teams started lineups with their more physical players tonight, but there was not an overabundance of cheap shots and there was just one fight.

"I don't think they think they lost the series because they were not physical enough," Capitals left wing Nick Kypreos said before the game. "We basically just outplayed them, for whatever reason or another. They had some key people injured. They are a different team. Likewise, we're a different team. Everybody remembers the playoffs and we want to carry that over."

Turcotte certainly is building on his great rookie season, when he had 32 goals and 34 assists. Rangers captain Kelly Kisio is out for at least five weeks (probably more) with a torn ligament and chipped bone in his ankle, and Turcotte took his place between Ogrodnick and Mullen.

The Capitals tied the game when Zezel hustled after a Calle Johansson rebound and knocked it past Richter with 7:09 left in the first period.

Before Druce put the Capitals ahead, referee Rob Shick disallowed a goal by Dino Ciccarelli, saying it was intentionally knocked in with his body.

Druce scored, then the Rangers tied it when the Capitals twice failed to clear the puck near their blueline. Liut stopped Mallette's first shot, but Mallette put the rebound past him. The Capitals argued that Rod Langway had cleared the puck before it crossed the redline, but TV replays showed otherwise.

The game-winner came when Mullen and Turcotte connected on a shorthanded two-on-one break. Kevin Hatcher -- who had tried to make a play deep at the other end -- caught up with Turcotte, only to have him lift a one-handed shot past Liut with 9:13 left.

Ogrodnick -- off a Turcotte feed -- scored his 450th goal with 4:44 left for a two-goal lead, which was more than enough for Richter.

"Richter," Murray said, "was the difference in the game."