Mike Palmateer came back to Maple Leaf Garden tonight and his Washington teammates provided the appropraite gift for the occasion. They scored two goals in the first three minutes, all that Palmateer needed to beat his old club, the Toronto Maple Leafs, 6-1.

A disappointing crowd of about 10,000 turned out for the exhibition and it was apparent from the dozens of fans wearing old Toronto jerseys with No. 29 and cheering every save by the man with Washington's 29 on his back that Palmateer was the principal attraction, not the home club.

Palmateer's outdated Maple Leaf postcards were pushed at the sourvenir stands and supporters of the little goalie brought signs to greet him. Some were homemade, with homilies like "We still love you, Palmy." Others were more professional, like the one in red, white and blue that read, "And on the 8th day, God created Mike Palmateer."

Palmateer did not disappoint his followers, blocking 38 shots. He was brilliant in the first period, particularly during the first minute of a short-handed situation in which he stopped testing drives by Darryl Sittler, Robert Picard and Borje Salming.

Then in the second period he was even better, turning aside 16 of 17 Toronto shots as his teammates lost their edge, obviously feeling the weariness to be expected following Friday's war with the Philadelphia Flyers.

In the final period, he just enjoyed, as Washington blitzed the home club with four quick goals to put the game away.

There was no letdown in motivation at the start, as it took Rick Green only 13 seconds to send Washington ahead to stay. Green, who scored twice, intercepted David Shand's clearing pass at Toronto blue line, cut around Shand and shot. Vince Tremblay, the Leafs' 20-year-old goalie, made the stop, then had his attention claimed by Mike Gartner and accidentally kicked the pluck into his own net.

The Leafs played a key role in the next goal, a power-play connection by Dennis Ververgaert at 2:37. Ververgaert's pass out of the right-wing corner struck Shand in the back of the leg and caromed past Tremblay.

Stewart Gavin spoiled Palmateer's shutout bid with a blast from the left-wing circle early in the second period and it seemed the Capitals, suddenly flat, might be heading for their first big-team defeat of the preseason.

It did not turn out that way. Dennis Maruk poked the rebound of his own breakaway shot past sub goalie Curt Ridley after just 31 seconds of the third period and the rout was on.

Green, 10 seconds out of the penalty box, collected a Ryan Walter pass and whipped a 45-footer past Ridley at 3:59 for his second goal.

Jean Pronovost took Bob Kelly's long pass behind the Toronto defense and netted a backhander at 5:02. Then, moments after the crowd had jeered Ridley for a routine save, rookie Torrie Robertson slipped behind the Leafs' defense and converted Guy Charron's pass at 7:09.

In contrast to Friday's endless mayhem, this game saw only four fights.Two matched the Leafs' Rick Vaive with Alan Hangsleben, who pounded out a decisive verdict the second time around.

The victory was the sixth for the Capital regulars without a loss. Washington's only official defeat came as second stringers played Pittsburgh while the big team was in Sweden. The exhibition campaign closes Sunday night in Hartford (WTOP-1500 at 7 p.m.)