John Druce registered the second hat trick of his National Hockey League career yesterday afternoon as the Washington Capitals defeated the San Jose Sharks, 6-2, before a sellout crowd of 18,130 at Capital Centre.

Druce scored his first goal 48 seconds into the first period, Mike Ridley chipped in two goals, and linemates Michal Pivonka and Peter Bondra led the way for a second straight game. Pivonka had four assists, as he did Friday in the Capitals' victory over the New York Rangers.

Yesterday's victory -- and New York's 5-5 tie against Detroit -- allowed the Capitals to move within five points of the Patrick Division-leading Rangers.

"The Druce, Pivonka, Bondra story continues," Capitals Coach Terry Murray said. "They created a lot of energy and jump. There were some great scoring chances that they got, though not because of {Sharks} mistakes. I was a little scared. No, not a little, but a lot scared about coming off a big game against the Rangers. Hard work will beat talent if the talent doesn't work."

Kevin Hatcher had the other Capitals' goal in support of goalie Don Beaupre. Mike Sullivan and Brian Lawton scored for the Sharks, who started with Jeff Hackett in goal but sent Jarmo Myllys in at 5-2.

The Rangers were the opponent when Druce got his first hat trick in Game 2 of the 1990 division finals at Madison Square Garden. Druce replaced John Tucker on a top line and was launched to playoff stardom. Much of last season and a lot of this one have not been as thrilling, but in the last 15 games Druce has nine of his 13 goals.

"I'm real excited. It's not too often you get a hat trick. Things have started to turn around in about the last 10 to 15 games," Druce said. "I've been playing with great players, Dale {Hunter} and Dino {Ciccarelli} and then Pivo and Bondra. With the kind of people they are and the way they can do things, it's bound to happen for you. But I also think I'm skating a lot better and creating a lot more opportunities for myself."

The first-year Sharks started the game behind and stayed that way. "It was 10:30 {a.m.} body time," said Sharks Coach George Kingston, whose team flew in from the West Coast Saturday night to begin a four-game trip. Jet lag doesn't help a team that, even with relative success for an expansion team (13-38-4), needs to have everything working to win.

"Everyone feels they have to feed on the Sharks," Kingston said. "It's the catch of the day."

The Capitals (32-19-4)depart for a four-game road trip with their first two-game winning streak since Dec. 29-Jan. 1, but the win was not without its drawbacks. Defenseman Al Iafrate was hit on the left foot by a slap shot by Sharks defenseman Doug Wilson.

"It hurts," said Iafrate as he limped to a car that was to take him and trainer Stan Wong to a hospital for X-rays. The Capitals are carrying only six defensemen. Ken Sabourin is the most likely to be recalled from Baltimore if Iafrate can't play Tuesday in Quebec.

The Nordiques are tied with the Sharks for last in the league standings, but the Capitals aren't likely to get such a quick gift.

On the first shift of the game, Pivonka collected an errant pass in the corner to the left of Hackett and sent a pass to the slot. Druce fired a slap shot past Hackett for a 1-0 lead.

Then, with 8:36 left in the first period, Pivonka found Druce open for a goal and a 2-0 lead. Ridley later knocked in a rebound for his 20th goal and a 3-0 lead after one period.

After Druce made it 4-0 in the second with a kick feed from Bondra, the Sharks scored twice in a span of 34 seconds. But Hatcher scored from the point for the lone power-play goal of the day with 7:56 left. Ridley added one more to make it 6-2.

"That was the killer," Kingston said of Hatcher's goal. "When we're not firing on all cylinders, it can be a tough night for the Sharks."

Capitals Notes: This was the 800th NHL game for Ciccarelli, who turned 32 on Saturday. . . . Hatcher was honored before the game for having passed the 500-game milestone. . . . Beaupre is now 66-51-10 as a Capital, putting him third on the team's all-time win list. . . . Ridley was second in the league in shorthanded goals (four) as of yesterday morning.