A Capital Centre crowd of 10,114 watched in disbelief last night as Washington goalie Mike Palmateer dropped Montreal's second shot into his own net. The fans looked on in horror later in the period as the Capital's Dennis Maruk lay on the ice, waving for help. Since Palmateer recouped with a superb performance and Maruk turned out to be merely short of breath, the fans' only lasting unpleasant memory, however, will likely to be two third-period goals 26 seconds apart by Marc Napier that enabled the outplayed Canadiens to escape with a 3-3 tie.

Moments after Montreal goalie Dennis Herron foiled Mike Gartner on a breakaway with Washington ahead, 3-1, an apparent icing by the Canadiens was waved off because the Capital's Pierre Bouchard did not attempt to stop the puck. It marked the turning point of a fast-paced, exciting hockey game.

The puck did not leave the Washington end, as Pierre Larouche drilled it into the slot and Napier deflected it past Palmateer. A few seconds later, Steve Shutt fed Larouche, whose backhander struck the goal post; Napier netted the rebound.

Washington poured on the pressure over the last 15 minutes, outshooting Montreal, 18-11, for the period, but Herron made some remarkable saves to keep it even. Not surprisingly, neither team was pleased with the result.

"We might have been satisfied a few years back with a tie against Montreal, but now there's no excuse for a tie," said Washington Coach Gary Green. "We broke down defensively and made mistakes. We didn't lose the hockey game, so we won't completely pout about it, but in our building we want two points and we should get two points."

Montreal Coach Claude Ruel was still steaming afterward about a call by referee Gregg Madill that washed out a Montreal goal in the first period. b

The Canadiens were ahead, 1-0, on Palmateer's muff when Mario Tremblay drilled a shot into the Washington net. Madill, however, ruled no goal because of crease interference by Yvon Lambert. Additionally, as part of a new rule, Lambert was assessed a minor penalty and, when he complained, received a second minor, which the Capitals utilized to tie the score.

Unfortunately for Madill, Capital Centre's Telscreen replay indicated that Lambert was not in the crease.

"I went for the front of net, but I was not in the crease," Lambert said. "In fact, Pat Ribble pushed me away. When he called no goal and gave me the penalty, I just told him to watch the replay and he gave me two more minutes."

"We should have had a 2-0 lead and instead they get a four-minute power play and they catch up," Ruel said. "You must have some break. When it go all the time for the other club, it makes it tough. It start to be frustrated on you. It is not easy to accept. We had the same thing in Boston Sunday. The game has to be played two ways."

Ribble merely commented that "I pushed him and let him go. He had all the time in the world to get out of there."

Maruk scored his third goal in three games with Lambert in the penalty box, lifting a rebound of a Bob Kelly shot over Herron.

Later in the period, Maruk pursued a Rick Green pass and was tripped by Montreal's Bob Gainey. Maruk fell to the ice, rolled over and waved for help. If there was anyone in the crowd who was not fearful Maruk's right knee had been torn apart once more, he could not have been aware of the surgery that kept the hustling center out for 62 games a year ago. The sigh of relief was audible when Maruk arose.

"I looked back to try to get the pass and that's when he hit me from the blind side," said Maruk, his right knee wrapped in ice. "I lost my breath, but I got it back and all I felt later was a little headache. I've got a charleyhorse, too, but the knee is fine.

"When he hit me, I knew it was that side, but there was no sore feeling in the knee, so I thought it was just the wind. And fortunately it came back."

Alan Hangsleben converted a perfect pass from Mike Gartner to complete a two-on-one break against Serge Savard and lift the Capitals into a 2-1 advantage midway through the second period.

At the 30-second mark of the third period, a blue-line blast by Yvon Labre was deflected by Rolf Edberg into the Montreal net, making it 3-1. At that stage it looked as though the Capitals would post their second victory in 37 meetings with Montreal. That brief letdown brought bitterness instead.

"When you play the New York Islanders and Montreal, you have to play 60 minutes, not 59 minutes and 20 seconds," Green said.

Palmateer recovered from his early embarrassment to record 24 saves and earn one of the three stars. He explained that the mistake resulted from a violation of one of this rules of goal-tending.

"I have a rule that if a shot is off the net coming down the center I catch it to avoid a dangerous rebound, but otherwise if it's off the net I let it go," Palmateer said. "I shouldn't have touched that one. I was mad about it, but it was a fluke. You can't worry about flukes. That's the first time I've ever done that."

Palmateer blamed himself for Montreal's second goal, although he was alone in the criticism.

"I knew the shot was wide, but I should have gone down anyway," Palmateer said. "I should have expected a deflection. That's the last time I'm a standup goaltender."

It was also the first.