NEW YORK, NOV. 28 -- Peter Bondra probably hasn't been in this country long enough to know the lore that permeates Madison Square Garden; the great performances that have taken place beneath its roof.

No matter. If he keeps playing as he has of late and especially as he did tonight, he will have a very long, very fruitful career in the National Hockey League.

In the building where John Druce rocketed to fame last spring, Bondra scored three goals and assisted on another to lead the Washington Capitals to a 6-3 victory over the Patrick Division-leading New York Rangers.

The crowd of 15,589 thought it would see the Rangers extend their unbeaten streak to 11 games, particularly after former Capital Mike Gartner scored midway through the first period. But Bondra proceeded to get two goals to begin a run of six unanswered Capitals goals.

"It was a great game by Bondra," Capitals Coach Terry Murray said. "You need a big performance in the opposing team's building. He had a lot of jump. He was attacking with the puck and shooting really well."

Entering the game, Bondra had a dozen points in the last dozen games, but this was his highest NHL output and his first NHL hat trick.

"In the first few games {of the season}, I didn't know the system," the Czechoslovakian Bondra said through Michal Pivonka, who had a goal and three assists. "I was trying hard, but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

That wasn't the case tonight, as Bondra, Pivonka and Kelly Miller led one of the Capitals' best offensive shows of the season. On Bondra's second goal, Kevin Hatcher's dump-in took a strange bounce off the the boards directly to Bondra in the slot.

"When it's going, it's going," Miller said.

This was still a game until early in the third period. Bondra scored his third of the night for a 4-1 lead with 44 seconds gone in the last period. Steve Leach then scored off Bondra's pass for for 5-1 lead with less than five minutes gone, and Pivonka put in Hatcher's rebound for a 6-1 edge with more than 12 minutes left. Bob Rouse had the other Capitals goal.

After Gartner's early goal, the Rangers didn't score again until 10:41 remained, when Ray Sheppard scored. Gartner added a shorthanded goal with 7:33 left. But that was all the Rangers got against Mike Liut. Murray started him on a hunch.

"I just had a feeling he would have a good game," Murray said of Liut, who had lost four straight. "He played great."

Occasionally this season, teams have scored on one of the their first few shots on Liut. It happened again tonight, although two-on-one breaks are difficult to stop at any time. But the Capitals came back from Gartner's goal.

"We get a little credit for sticking with the game plan and coming back," Rouse said.

Pivonka's line, with Bondra at right wing and Kelly Miller at left wing, has been the most productive unit of late, and that trio tied the game, 1-1.

Miller intercepted a failed Rangers clearing pass, nudging the puck to Pivonka. Bondra caught his pass in the air, dropped it to the ice and swatted it past Mike Richter for his seventh goal with 4:12 left in the first period.

Bondra has done so well lately in part because he is getting to work on the power play unit. That group started the day tied with Calgary for the top spot in the league rankings.

"It's good for a player to be on the power play," Bondra said the other day through interpreter John Chapin. "It gives the player a lot of confidence."

Bondra got his third power play goal of the season early in the second. A hooking penalty on Rangers defenseman Brian Leetch carried over into the next period and the Capitals were the beneficiaries of the bounce.

Hatcher dumped the puck into the corner. It hit an edge and bounced right into the slot. Bondra was in perfect position to lift it over Richter for a 2-1 lead.

"You can see the ribs sticking out," Hatcher said of the Garden boards.

The power play continued to click. Just as Bernie Nicholls was exiting the penalty box, Rouse fired a slap shot that deflected off Brian Mullen's stick and over Richter's glove hand for a 3-1 lead with 9:43 left in the period.

But three fairly quick goals decided this affair.

"You can't be a team that can't win if it doesn't score first," Liut said. "Coming out of the first period with the lead or a tie is the key."