The Washington Capitals entertain the Vancouver Canucks this afternoon at 1:30, wondering whether they should have saved a few of those goals they poured past Colorado's Michel Plasse and Bill Oleschuk on Friday.

Washington's 8-1 victory provided the greatest margin of success in the team's history and was a welcome, if thought provoking, followup to three straight defeats in which they had outshot the opposition by 98-80.

"It's a frustrating business," said Washington General Manager Max McNab. "The puck goes in one night and it doesn't another. Nobody can explain it."

Dennis Maruk certainly can't explain it. He posted the team's second hat trick of the season, after coming up empty four games in a row and failing even to get a shot on goal during Thursday's 6-2 loss in Kbuffalo.

Defenseman Yvon Labre proved he belongs, in case there was doubt, with an outstanding performance. Labre was a solid plus three to move into third place in the team's plus-minus listing behind coleaders Blair Stewart and Gary Rissling (plus five). Rissling netted his first NHL goal as part of the fun.

Defenseman Rick Green, who struck his head against a goal post, spent Friday night in a hospital. He skated yesterday despite a big lump behind his left ear and was expected to start today.

Defenseman Gord Lane, who bruised his right hand kwhile pummeling the Rockies' Ron Delorme, was able to shoot without difficulty at yesterday's practice.

Four Swedes, all in their first NHL season, will be in action today. Washington center Rolf Edberg discarded a protector around his battered (18 stitches) nose after the first period Friday because he experienced vision problems. The Capitals' other Swede, defenseman Leif Svensson, continued to play excellent hockey while collecting two assists.

Center Thomas Gradin, a teammate of Edberg on Stockholm's AIK club, ranked third on Vancouver's scoring list with 27 points, entering last night's game at St. Louis. Lars Lindgren, a highly rated defenseman, has been one of the steadier performers for the team that wears those outlandish black uniforms, trimmed in red and yellow.

Running shorts will be passed out free to the first 5,000 youngsters, age 14 and under, attending today's game.