This has been an off year for goalie Chico Resch of the New York Islanders. As usual, however, Resch was on the money when the Washington Capitals came to Nassau Coliseum tonight.

Resch stopped 30 shots, several of which seemed certain lamplighters, to carry the outplayed Islanders to a 2-1 decision over the frustrated Capitals.

"Chico was standing on his head stopping shots," said Washington Coach Gary Green. "We'd go low and he'd come sliding out. Then we'd go up and he'd be standing up."

Washington's only score probably should have been waved off. It came on a power play late in the first period, as Ryan Walter deflected a Robert Picard drive while standing in the crease, creating a 1-1 tie.

"I was in the crease and just as I touched the puck I noticed it and tried to get out," Walter said. "That's about the only way you can get it by a goalie who's as hot as that -- stand in his way."

Washington's Rollie Boutin played well, too, although he did not face the difficult shots that Resch handled. Clark Billies beat Boutin early in the first period on a power play, circling defenseman Pierre Bouchard and lifting the puck when the goalie sprawled.

The winning goal came at the mid-point of the second period. Garry Howatt, left unguarded in front of the Washington net, converted Mike Bossy's pass from behind the goal line. It was Howatt's first goal in 15 games; Gillies had not scored in his last 13.

Resch had not been sharp, either, coming in with a 4-6-1 record and 3.79 goals-against mark. In five previous NHL seasons, Resch has never finished higher than 2.55; his career average is 2.37.

"I had a scary feeling that the team would come out flat and I got myself pumped up," Resch said. "But give the defense credit, too. Gordie Lane was pumped up more than I was and Dave (Langevin) and Stefan (Persson) played great, too."

Lane, the former Capital policeman, was chased twice in the first period, for low-grade assults on Walter. He escapted the penalty box afterward, despite such antics as hitting Rolf Edberg in the head with his stick and responding to a Walter check with a stick waved in the face. Aside from that nonsense, he played a sound game for his new club.

For a while, ex-Islander Mike Kaszycki, the other man in the Lane deal, received more cheers than the home team. He assisted on Walter's goal, for which he was loudly saluted by fans sitting behind a banner reading "KAS."

Meanwhile, the sub-.500 Islanders were hooted frequently as the Capitals dominated play much of the game, enjoying a 27-16 shooting edge in the first two periods.

Eventually, the 14,855 fans got behind their old hero with chants of "Chi-co, Chi-co" and he responded by boosting his career record against Washington to 8-1-1. He has blanked the Capitals four times while posting a 1.02 goals-against standard.

Mike Gartner missed the net going high on a first-period breakaway. Walter tried to fleed Mark Lofthouse for a close-in score and Resch gloved the pass. Tom Rowe tried to lift the puck on a breakaway and Resch dove out to deflect it with his shoulder.

Rowe also was hauled down from behind by Jean Potvin on a second-period breakaway, as the Capitals vainly sought a penalty shot from referee Alf-Lejuene.

In the final period, Resch stopped Leif Svensson on a seemingly sure goal after Kaszycki set up Svensson perfectly on a two-on-one break. Later, Edberg fired a shot off Resch's helmet, corralled the rebound and fed a rushing Paul Mulvey. The net was open, but Mulvey missed the puck.

The Islanders were playing without two injured stars, Denis Potvin and Bryan Trottier. Potvin is recuperating from surgery on his right thumb, Trottier has a back problem.

Washington was missing Greg Polis, slowed by fluid on the knee. Polis was replaced by Antero Lehtonen, who set up Rowe for that breakaway that ended in a trip.

For the Capitals, who last won a road game in Edmonton Oct. 28, it was one more bad trip.