The effort was better, but the result was not, so the Washington Capitals' winless streak is now at seven games.

The New York Rangers scored four straight times en route to defeating the Capitals, 5-3, last night in front of 17,393 at Capital Centre.

"There was tension. I saw a lot of that," Capitals Coach Terry Murray said when asked about the effort. "We came out showing intensity and tried to get things started. But in the second period, we were a different team altogether. Everybody tightened up."

The Rangers had a 2-1 lead after one period. It is the third period that usually hurts the Capitals, but the problems creeped in earlier last night -- a failed clearing pass and a turnover right at the opponent's blueline that resulted in breaks the other way.

"It's the same result, but we're working on it," said Mike Ridley. "We know what we have to do, with all the meetings, but it's not going to happen in a snap of the fingers."

Thursday was all about meetings between players and coaches. Murray, with assistant John Perpich, met with General Manager David Poile yesterday afternoon.

"We were playing better a couple weeks ago, but we certainly have lost that now," Poile said before the start of the third period last night. He said Coach Terry Murray's job is secure.

When asked whether a change via a trade is necessary just for the sake of change, Poile said: "Sometimes that's applicable. But I have a lot of thoughts right now and I want to take some time. We'll see how it goes {tonight, when the Capitals play in Quebec}, then we'll talk Sunday and Monday and proceed from there."

The victory meant the Rangers have captured the season series, taking a 4-1 edge. New York's Mike Richter was in goal in all five games. His counterpart, Don Beaupre, couldn't stem the tide last night, which has taken the Capitals to their longest winless streak since an eight-game losing binge last January that led to the firing of coach Bryan Murray.

James Patrick, Ray Sheppard, Normand Rochefort, Bernie Nicholls and Kevin Miller scored for the Rangers. Peter Zezel gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead, but they didn't score again until the third period. Then Dimitri Khristich scored his first NHL goal and Alan May added a goal, but it was not enough.

Unlike the loss to New York almost two weeks ago, the Capitals met the Rangers' aggression early.

"You want to establish a tempo," May said.

The Capitals took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by Zezel, who deflected in a slap shot by Mikhail Tatarinov (who returned after missing three games with a sore knee). But it didn't stick.

Patrick scored a power-play goal and Sheppard got loose in the slot for a 2-1 lead after one period.

"We've got to get more goals," Capitals owner Abe Pollin said during a first-intermission chat. Asked if he thought the current bad run was just a phase or something of more concern, Pollin said: "I think it's just a phase. We're playing better tonight already."

Pollin was correct at that point, but the game slipped away in the second period. Rochefort scored from the point with 8:18 left and Nicholls scored what would be the winning goal on a power play with 4:14 left.

Khristich made his first mark in the NHL scorebook early in the third period, but Miller teed up a slap shot from the middle of the slot to push the Rangers' lead to 5-2. May's goal just made the final score look better.

So the Capitals begin the second half of the season tonight against Quebec. Their mark is 18-21-1 and they are in fifth place in the Patrick Division. Murray knows his team is pressing and was low-key compared with the previous two losses, but he wasn't ready for optimism.

"After the Philadelphia game," he said of the team's last victory, on Dec. 11, "looking at won-lost record, there could have been a half-dozen or eight wins we could have had, but didn't because of a turnover or a bad play in our end. It could be worse, but it could be a heck of a lot better."