Brandon Dubinsky let his instincts take over when he turned and saw teammate Dan Girardi down on the ice and Alex Ovechkin skating toward him with the Rangers leading by four goals midway through the second period.

"I didn't think he'd drop the gloves so fast. I really respect the way [Ovechkin] plays and obviously his skill level," Dubinsky said. "At the same time, I saw one of my teammates on the ice and wanted to protect him."

The pair exchanged some wild blows and Dubinsky ended up atop Ovechkin on the ice as the Garden crowd roared.

That's how much the Rangers frustrated the Capitals in their 7-0 win last night at the Garden. Ovechkin was held scoreless and picked up only his second career fighting major as the Capitals lost their sixth straight. The Caps did, however, hit three posts and the crossbar during the course of the fast-paced evening.

Henrik Lundqvist had 31 saves for the Rangers, who bounced back in a big way after losing to the Blue Jackets the night before.

Playing their third game in four nights, the Rangers (18-13-1) blew it open in the second period with goals from Artem Anisimov, Marian Gaborik on the power play, Dubinsky and Marc Staal on a shorthander. Ryan Callahan made it 6-0 at 4:11 of the third on a corner pass from Dubinsky. Dubinsky's assist completed his third career Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist and fight in same game).

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Callahan added his second goal, and 10th of the season, on a two-on-one later in the third. Soon after, the Caps' irritation spilled over again, with Sean Avery and Matt Hendricks, who had battled Mike Sauer at 5:16 of the first, throwing punches. More scrums developed with less than five minutes to play.

Brandon Prust scored the first goal for the Rangers at 17:57. They have scored first in 21 of their 32 games and have a 15-5-1 record in those 21.

With his second goal and third point in four games, Prust scored from in front with just 2:03 left in the first period. In a foreshadowing of what was to come, Prust battled two Caps in the corner, but the puck squirted away behind the net to Brian Boyle. Then Alex Frolov flipped a pass across to Prust, who gloved it down, and his quick shot, from just above the goal line to the left of Semyon Varlamov found the net. It was Prust's fourth of the season.

Lundqvist's key save during that stretch was on Mathieu Perreault, a pad beauty sliding to his right when the Rangers were under siege. He also robbed Perreault with a dazzling flash of his glove late in the third.

Lundqvist was back between the pipes because coach John Tortorella wanted him "to play through" his inconsistencies and "get in a flow . . . We tried to get him working through it when I was playing Marty [Biron]. I still don't think it's at a level it needs to be. We're trying to have him play through this - he shouldn't be tired; he's had plenty of rest - and he will.''

It was the Rangers' eighth win in their last 12 games and their first in three games when wearing the dark blue Heritage jerseys. The schedule, although lighter, doesn't get any easier before Christmas: The Rangers visit the Penguins Wednesday, host the Coyotes Thursday, visit the Flyers Saturday and host the Lightning Dec. 23.