The Rangers held serve in this best-of-seven, but this wasn’t tennis, anyone, at the Garden last night.

This was an in-your-face display by the Blueshirts; or, rather, an in-the-Capitals faces’ effort that produced a second consecutive 4-3 victory, sending this opening round back to D.C. at two-all for tomorrow night’s Game 5.

“That’s exactly how we have to continue to play if we want to go deep into the playoffs,” said Derek Stepan, whose goal from in front at 6:02 gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead. “We have to play a physical game.”

The Rangers were credited with 38 hits and blocked 33 shots, more than they blocked in any game of last year’s seven-game series against the Caps (except for the triple-OT Game 3 in which they blocked 41) when they carried the Black-and-Blueshirts mantle on their shoulders.

They got the puck in deep and thus controlled considerably more of the five-on-five play than did Washington by eliminating the opportunities for the talented Caps to sweep through the neutral zone with speed.

“We concentrated on forcing them to come 200 feet,” said the indefatigable Ryan Callahan, who had five hits, seven blocked shots and disrupted countless breakout attempts with relentless forechecking in 23:31.

“They prey on turnovers and the transition game and have so much talent up front, we needed to hang on to pucks in the offensive zone even if we didn’t have plays and then force them to come through the whole team.”

Marc Staal, who obviously did not feel capable of helping the team, sat out following his inspirational return in Monday’s 4-3 victory. The Rangers’ back end was resolute in the alternate captain’s absence, with the Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi pair coming through with its best game of the series and Anton Stralman continuing his stout play.

The Rangers took a piece of Alex Ovechkin at every opportunity. McDonagh was extremely physical in his match against No. 8, who finished the night with one shot against Henrik Lundqvist, five attempts blocked and three missing the net.

“He’s an elite player who is used to taking hits,” McDonagh, who played a game-high 31:29, said. “He’s so mobile that he’s tough to hit, but I’m going to take a shot any time I can.”

It was another night on which the Rangers received strong performances pretty much straight through the lineup, with Rick Nash a notable exception. No. 61, who finished the night on a third line with Brad Richards and Ryane Clowe, was all but invisible. It is baffling.

But there was little baffling about the Blueshirts. There was no trickery involved in this one in which they led 2-0 past the midway point of the second, yielded a pair of goals over the period’s final 6:52 — the tying goal coming with 17.1 seconds remaining — and then reclaimed their advantage when Girardi scored a power-play goal at 0:59 of the third.

“It was tough going into the room after the second but it was important for us to stay focused in the third,” said Lundqvist, who made a brilliant stop on a Joel Ward left wing drive to the net with 3:22 remaining to preserve the lead after a deflection had brought the Caps within one at 7:31.

“We just had to realize how we were playing. We gave them less ‘A’ scoring chances in this game than the others,” Lundqvist said. “I think that started with our forechecking.”