Mike Palmateer remains a hero within the halls of Maple Leaf Gardens. Tonight, when the 26-year-old goalie returned to the Gardens for his first regular-season appearance a Washington Capital, his old fans were more than happy to help him mock the Toronto Maple Leafs through a 7-3 Washington victory.

Palmateer faced 45 shots, 21 of them in the final period, as Washington earned its second win over the Leafs in as many nights. Friday, Wayne Stepenson staked the Capitals to a 6-2 triumph at Landover.

With the scoring support of Mike Gartner, Bob Kelly and Wes Jarvis, each of whom tallied twice, and Dennis Maruk, who had one goal for Washington, Palmateer gave Torontonians a review of the daring feats he demonstrated during four seasons with the Leafs before he was swapped for defenseman Robert Picard.

While Palmateer was drawing ovations for his sprawls and splits and his charges to the blueline to halt breakaways, his replacement in the Toronto net, Czech defector Jiri Crha, looked meek and intimidated and almost scored on himself once.

"I've had better games, but not really one that's been more meaningful," Palmateer said after taking a bow as the game's second star behind Kelly. The goalie said during a televised interview that he wanted to play more often rather than share the workload with Stephenson.

However, Coach Gary Green reasons that since both his netminders are playing well it would be wrong to change the arrangement.

"I'm sure they'd both like to play more but we're coming to a time in the schedule when there are a lot of grueling doldrums. I want both goalies to be fresh," Green explained.

The win raised the Caps' record for the last eight games to five wins, one loss and two ties and moved them two victories over the .500 mark.The slumping Leafs remain winless in their past six outings and dropped below .500 for the first time since the beginning of the season.

Toronto Coach Joe Crozier confessed that his men had been outworked at every position but refused to be critical of his Maple Leafs.

"There's no dry jerseys in there," Crozier said, pointing to the dressing room. "They gave it all they had and they just couldn't put the puck in the net."

The Leafs opened the scoring with a John Anderson deflection in the first period, then found themselves in trouble when star defenseman Borje Salming took a double misconduct penalty for dropping his gloves and fighting with Cap Pat Ribble. At the same time, Kelly was trading blows with Toronto's rugged Wilf Paiement.

Toronto, deprived of its prime playmaker for 20 minutes, fell behind, 4-2, by the end of the period. Gartner evened the score at 1-1 on a power play. Toronto's Dan Maloney gave the Leafs a 2-1 lead on another power play, but Maruk wiped that out 11 seconds later with a long slapshot. It was his 20th goal of the season.

Kelly returned from the penalty box to score the go-ahead goal at 15:25 by sweeping around the Toronto net, then added a deflection at 17:57, the eventual game winner.

Jarvis once in the second period and once in the third. Gartner and Toronto's Rocky Saganiuk traded goals late in the game.