The buzz that often fills arenas when Patrick Division teams square off was absent. But a quiet win is worth as many points as a loud one.

Quick and efficient were the Washington Capitals last night, as they disposed of the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-1, in front of 14,962 at Capital Centre.

The Capitals put only 16 shots on Flyers goalie Ron Hextall, but four went past him and, just 2 hours 11 minutes after they began, the Capitals had their fourth victory in their last five games.

"It was an amazing game between the Flyers and the Capitals," Capitals Coach Terry Murray said of the speed and scarcity of shots, the fewest ever by two teams in this building. The Flyers also set a team record for fewest shots (13) in a game.

"It was a game I was concerned about," said Murray, whose team was a bit sleepy in losing to New Jersey, 4-2, Saturday. "The Flyers certainly played well in Chicago {where they won, 5-4}. And the way we played was not how I would like to come in a game against the Flyers. But we responded and played well."

It was an all-around good day for the Capitals. During the first intermission, the Capitals announced the signing of 21-year-old Soviet center-left wing Dimitri Khristich of Sokol Kiev.

In moving into a third-place tie with New Jersey, the Capitals opened a 4-0 lead on the second-place Flyers. Mike Ridley, Alfie Turcotte, Dale Hunter and Dino Ciccarelli scored for the Capitals, who are 6-0-1 in their last seven against the Flyers.

The victory was achieved without second-leading scorer Michal Pivonka, who did not play because of a sore knee. Leading scorer Kevin Hatcher, still bothered by the flu, did play and had one assist.

This was the second game back for Hextall, who is the best goalie in the league at handling the puck. That is important for the Flyers, who are without their best puck-handling defenseman, Mark Howe.

"He's like a third defenseman," Murray said.

The Capitals' Mike Liut was in goal for the first time since beating the New York Rangers, 6-3, on Nov. 28. Liut's 24 career shutouts are the most among active goaltenders and he's narrowly missed getting his 25th on several occasions.

This time, he and the Capitals kept the Flyers off the board until 8:25 was left in the third period, when Ron Sutter converted Murray Craven's pass following a break down in the Capitals' zone.

"It's disappointing," Liut said. "I thought I was on my way."

But by the time the Flyers scored, they were whipped and they just tried to take out some of their frustration. Though there were no fights, the Flyers' leading scorer, Rick Tocchet, had Capitals defenseman Mikhail Tatarinov seeing a red star or two (and blood from his nose) after delivering an elbow to the Soviet's face in a center-ice collision.

"It is not fitting for such a skilled player to give such a cheap shot," Tatarinov said through interpreter John Chapin, though he said it didn't affect him much.

Tatarinov got things started on the first goal with a simple little pass off the boards to Ciccarelli. He carried into the Flyers' zone, paused to let the defense back up another step and fed Ridley in the slot.

Ridley had beaten the Flyers' No. 1 draft pick, rookie Mike Ricci, down the slot and then he beat Hextall with a nifty move. That gave Ridley 10 goals for the season and the Capitals a 1-0 lead with 10:17 left in the first period.

Turcotte was called up last week from Baltimore and if he is to stay, he has to create offense. Scoring on breakaways is one way, and he used that option to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with 3:36 gone in the second period. That was Turcotte's first goal as a Capital and first in the NHL since April 1985, when he was a member of the Montreal Canadiens.

Tatarinov got his second assist of the night when he sent a wrist shot toward the goal. Dale Hunter batted it out of the air and it dribbled past Hextall for a power play goal and a 3-0 lead with 2:42 gone in the second.

Ciccarelli, who now has two goals in three games since returning from his injury, scored on another breakaway -- the Capitals only shot on goal in the third period.

"I don't think either team played very well," Hextall said. "They took advantage of their chances and we didn't. I certainly can't blame the way I played on being out six weeks {with a knee injury}. That would be an excuse. They had four legitimate goals. But if I had been sharp, it could have stopped one or two."