Undated (AP) _ After taking the initiative in their National Hockey League playoff series with the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals hope to take the lead in Game 3 tonight.

''We got off to a good start and kind of discouraged them,'' Washington Coach Bryan Murray said of Saturday night's 8-1 rout of the Rangers in Game 2 of their Patrick Division final. ''If we could get ahead (tonight), it would be a real plus for us.''

The Capitals' impressive victory Saturday night at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md., tied the best-of-seven series at 1-1. The Rangers won the opener 4-3 in overtime.

''It doesn't give us anything psychologically,'' Washington right wing Craig Laughlin said as the Capitals prepared for tonight's game at Madison Square Garden. ''We know they're good. They just didn't execute well (Saturday night). You don't say, 'We beat them 8-1 and now it's a cakewalk.' If we don't come out with fire in our eyes, it'll be a tough game.''

In another playoff game tonight, the Montreal Canadiens play at Hartford after splitting the first two games of the best-of-seven Adams Division final.

In action Sunday night, the Edmonton Oilers edged the Calgary Flames 6-5 in overtime and the Toronto Maple Leafs blanked the St. Louis Blues 3-0. The results tied both series at 1-1.

Rangers Coach Ted Sator doesn't think Saturday night's lopsided result will give the Capitals a psychological advantage in the series.

''It's tied 1-1, and that's in perspective,'' Sator said. ''I don't want to make excuses. Give all the credit to the Washington Capitals, they are a superb hockey team. We'll look at what we did and try to give them a new wrinkle for Monday night.''

Rangers goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck, who had an unusual off-night in Saturday night's game, thought the rout ''took a little bit of steam out of us. They're going to gain confidence from this, and we realize that.''

However, he did see some positives despite a lopsided loss.

''The bright side is we got a split in Washington, but now we've got to come back and take two in New York,'' Vanbiesbrouck said.

Meanwhile, Montreal defenseman Rick Green said he believed the Canadiens have found the key to beating the Whalers.

''We knew in order to be successful, we had to be on the puck all the time,'' Green said. ''We did that (in Saturday night's 3-1 victory). It was just a combination of everybody working to shut down their scoring chances.''

Saturday night's victory was the Canadiens' first in their last four games against Hartford, including the last two games of the season. It also snapped the Whalers' six-game winning streak, including four in the playoffs.

Hartford Coach Jack Evans wasn't particularly happy leaving Montreal with a split of the first two games at the Forum.

''We played like a team that was content with getting the one win in Montreal and they (Montreal) played like a team with their back to the wall,'' he said. ''We just didn't come out and get into their end like the way they got into ours. They contained us in our end for most of the first period.'' SMYTHE DIVISION Oilers 6, Flames 5

Glenn Anderson scored at 1:04 of overtime to cap a furious late rally for Edmonton. Anderson took a short pass from Dave Lumley, cut to the front of the net and pushed a backhanded shot into the corner past Flames goaltender Rejean Lemelin.

The defending Stanley Cup champions were behind most of the game before rallying from a two-goal deficit to take the lead at 5-4 on goals by Craig MacTavish, Mark Napier and Dave Hunter. Joe Mullen's second goal of the night tied the game for Calgary in the last minute of regulation before the Oilers pulled it out.

''(Dave) Lumley had the puck and he threw it behind him to me,'' Anderson said of the game-winning play. ''All of a sudden there was a big opening in front of the net. I was one-on-one with Reggie (Lemelin). I cut across and he came with me. I just tucked it back in the other side.

''In the third period, I think we finally got our game plan going. We started capitalizing on some of the things we were supposed to be doing from the beginning.'' NORRIS DIVISION Maple Leafs 3, Blues 0

Peter Ihnacak banged in a second-period rebound and Tom Fergus tipped in a third-period power-play goal, leading Toronto over St. Louis behind Ken Wregget's standout goaltending. Wregget kicked out 35 shots to record his first NHL playoff shutout.

By winning, the Maple Leafs snapped a 13-game winless streak on St. Louis ice. Toronto, while dominating a contest marked by close checking and numerous player altercations, won for the first time on Arena ice since winning 6-3 on Feb. 17, 1983. They were 0-11-2 during the long drought.

Ihnacak opened the scoring at 9:14 of the second period and Fergus scored 15 minutes later by tipping in Borje Salming's shot. Salming later completed the scoring with a goal into an empty net with 1:13 left in the game.

''Everyone was just great out there,'' Wregget said. ''The defensemen were clearing people out in front, so there weren't many second and third shots I had to stop. And the forwards were coming back and breaking out of our zone well.''