The Caps got a pair of goals from Alexander Semin, two assists from Alex Ovechkin and 31 saves by Tomas Vokoun as they beat the Rangers 4-1, snapping New York's five-game winning streak and their own two-game slide.
The Rangers had won four in a row in the regular season against the Caps, outscoring Washington 21-4, but the Capitals never trailed after Troy Brouwer's goal midway through the second period snapped a 1-1 tie.
The Caps won their first seven games of the season but are just 11-15-2 since then. They fired coach Bruce Boudreau in late November and replaced him with Dale Hunter, but the inconsistency that marked their play under Boudreau has continued under Hunter.
"We're a good team," Hunter said. "We haven't showed that in a long time, or we do for 1 game. If we play consistently like that, it's hard to beat us."
Brouwer got tangled with Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in front of the New York net and not only screened goalie Martin Biron but got a piece of John Carlson's shot from the left point and tipped it into the net at 10:24 for his 10th of the season and a 2-1 lead.
The Caps haven't always been willing to do the little things that can add up to victory. On this night, Hunter said, they were.
"It's up to them on the ice to do the little things like blocking shots, taking a hit on the boards to get it out of our own end," he said. "We did it very well tonight. We were physical on the boards and got pucks out, the team sacrificed their body to win."
Ovechkin set up Semin's goal at 13:02 by forcing a turnover from Brad Richards. Nicklas Backstrom grabbed the puck and shoveled it to Semin, who got a step on the defense and beat Biron with a backhander for his eighth goal of the season.
New York coach John Tortorella was more than a little bit frustrated with his team's sloppy play after the Rangers' first loss since Dec. 15.
"I wouldn't say it's the defense, I would say it's some brain-dead plays at our blue line as far as turnovers," Tortorella said. "It's unfortunate with Del Z (Michael Del Zotto) -- he loses the puck on the first one. But a turnover by Mitch (John Mitchell) and a turnover by Richie (Brad Richards), not against their third or fourth line, but against their top line. It kills us. That's what’s frustrating. I thought we beat ourselves a little bit there in those situations.
"They're an opportunistic team. They don't want to defend. They want nothing to do with it. So what do we do? We don't allow them to defend on those plays and they go score goals and then they get rolling. That's where they gained momentum. So that's what's frustrating."
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan appeared to make it 3-2 with 7:59 remaining in regulation, but the goal was disallowed after a video review showed that he kicked the puck into the net. Semin then put the game away when he put away a cross-ice feed from Ovechkin with 2:35 remaining.
"We just have to be consistent and play with emotion like we did tonight and stay away from bad mistakes and we'll be fine," Vokoun said.
Marcus Johansson gave Washington a 1-0 lead at 8:18 of the opening period, converting the rebound of Jeff Halpern's shot for his seventh of the season. The Rangers tied it at 17:16 when Callahan blocked a shot and the puck squired up the ice for a 2-on-1 break that Brandon Dubinsky finished by beating Vokoun for his third of the season.
Marian Gaborik, who shares the NHL lead with 22 goals, had his five-game goal-scoring streak snapped.
Rangers center Brian Boyle feels his team beat itself and made things too easy for the Caps.
"We didn't take care of the puck, and that burned us," Boyle said. "We don't want to give the puck away, we want them to earn it. Those are the things we don't want to do, and in this League there aren't a lot of comebacks, so we really beat ourselves."
It was just the second loss in nine appearances this season for Biron; the other one came Nov. 15 at Montreal. With one more game -- at Florida on Friday -- before the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Monday in Philadelphia, he feels it's vital not to let one defeat turn into a losing streak.
"You always feel like you can win them all. Little things here and there create woulda, coulda, shoulda," he said. "But that's part of the game. But that's been part of our team this year where we've been able to go back and string some wins together right after losses, and that's got to be the same thing now. We have to stop it here now. That's got to be our attitude moving forward."
Material from team media was used in this report.
1 - 0 WSH
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 WSH
3 - 1 WSH