Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.

The Washington Capitals had their fastest start ever tonight. Then they endured the longest 59 1/2 minutes in a long time, dropping an 8-1 NHL decision to the Colorado Rockies.

It was an unexpected turnabout, after Wednesday's 6-2 victory in Atlanta, and left coach Tom McVie bewildered and disgusted.

"It was disgraceful," McVie said. "It was a total lack of effort. That's an all-time low.

"If that's all this hockey club's got to give, them we're really, really in trouble. We were so horrible that I had seven defensemen dressed and it was difficult to find four to play. And the forwards were no better, no pride at all."

The Capitals move on to Minnesota Saturday to meet the North Stars (game time 9 p.m., broadcast on delayed basis following Bullets basketball on WTOP-1500) and McVie can only wonder whether the Jekylls or the Hydes will be in uniform. Center Gerry Meehan, absent tonight because of his father's illness, will rejoin the team Saturday night, but left wing Ace Bailey, who suffered a bruised knee in the seond period, is doubtful.

In addition, defenseman Gord Lane was taken to the hospital for X rays after being struck in the ankle by Mark Suzor's slap shot with seven minutes to play. Lane did skate afterward, but Bailey saw no further action.

For 30 seconds, the Capitals seemed to be continuing on the victory path. Walt McKenhnie socred after only 11 seconds of play, intercepting Tom Edur's pass at the Colorado blue line and beating goalie Dough Favell from the left-wing circle.

It was the quickest goal in any Washington game. Philadelphia's Reg Leach held the old mark of 12 seconds for almost three years.

McKechnie almost scored again seconds later, taking Dave Forbes' pass outside the crease. Favell made the key save, however, and play quickly turned around.

The first minute still wasn't concluded when Gary Croteau pulled the Rockies even, accepting Paul Gardner's pass while defensemen Rick Green and Jack Lynch imitated spectators.

Then, with Colorado's Nelson Pyatt serving a tripping penalty, ex-Capital from power-play point man Guy Charron in Washington ice. Dupere retrieved it and fed Bryan Lefley skating into the slot for the first of his two goals.

The second period was played on ice that seemed tilted toward the Washington goal. The Rockies outshot the Capitols, 20-5, poured four goals past Gary Smith and put the result out of sight. Croteau added his second goal and Paul Gardner picked up his seventh in seven games.

Bernie Wolfe replaced Smith in the final period and vielded two goals on 13 shots. It was Wolfe's first appearance since he was shelled for three goals in the first period by Montreal on Oct. 19.

Only 4,132 fans were present as the Rockies, who shuffled their front office today, seem unable to make a dent in Denver's sporting dollar. But the small group enjoyed itself.

Krazy George, the traveling cheer-leader,raced down the steps and repeatedly crashed into the glass near the Capitals' net, while first-row fans helped make the other glass panels rattle.

In the final period, the fans responded joyously to George's instructions, chanting "We want 20" and, in a final bit of exuberation, "We want a thousand."

As it was, the eight goals matched the team record, set last year at Minnesota.

The Capitals remained last in the Norris Division, with a 2-4 record.