In losing their 19th straight game in the Forum, the Washington Capitals finally achieved some disrespect.

Where previous Capital visits generated yawns and hundreds of empty seats, tonight a crowd of 16,798, fourth largest of the season here, turned out to shower boos on the Capitals. If the fans did not appreciate Washington's rough play, they at least savored the result, a 7-4 success for the Canadiens.

The Capitals had a few boos of their own, directed in a reserved, resigned fashion at referee Bryan Lewis.

Boo No. 1 concerned the goal by Mario Tremblay late in the second period that broke a 3-3 tie and sent Montreal ahead to stay. The Capitals claimed it never broke the plane of the goal line.

"It hit the crossbar, dropped and stayed on the red line," said Jean Pronovost. "That's what the replay showed, too."

Boo No. 2 was provoked by an apparent Washington goal early in the third period by Bob Kelly that would have produced a 4-4 deadlock. Lewis ruled that Kelly had kicked the puck into the net.

"It's a matter of the referee's discretion and I don't agree with him, Kelly said. "I was in front of the net and (Keith) Acton was holding my stick. I saw PeeWee (Dennis Maruk) setting up and all I did was skate toward the puck. It hit my leg and went in. If that's directing it in, all I can say is it's his discretion."

"I know it went in off his leg," Coach Gary Green said. "But I don't know how anybody could react that quickly to deliberately kick it in. I don't agree with those goals being called back. It's pretty tough to call back a goal in a game that tight.

"Without that disallowed goal, it's a tie game and maybe we would have played defensively the rest of the way and gone for a tie. The game was never out of reach until those last few minutes."

With Washington pressing for a tying goal, Yvon Lambert and Steve Shutt (twice) converted two-on-one breaks in the last nine minutes. Montreal scored those three goals on only four third-period shots, the other being an Acton breakaway that goalie Mike Palmateer foiled with a rolling body block.

Jim McTaggart's first NHL goal and Maruk's 26th of the season erased an early 2-0 Montreal lead. Bengt Gustafsson, who banged his left elbow during the evening, created a 3-3 deadlock in the second period before Tremblay's controversial score gave the Canadiens the lead for good. Mike Gartner hit the 20-goal plateau in the final period. t

Many of the boos were directed at Washington captain Ryan Walter, who earned three assists and a liberal number of marks on the hit sheet. Walter dealt some resounding checks to Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey early in the game, but it was an assault on Acton that really got the folks down on him.

Acton, skating down the right wing, shoveled the puck into Lambert for the fifth Montreal goal and then was hammered into the rear boards by Walter, striking his head on a metal support and requiring assistance to the dressing room.

Another legal check that drew boos was landed by rookie Archie Henderson on Montreal's Gaston Gingras, leaving Gingras on the ice until revived by the trainer.

In contrast to recent Capital contests, there were only two fights in this one, Washington's Paul Mulvey tangling with Rod Langway and McTaggart battling Tremblay. Tremblay, who started the brawl, had his jersey shredded so badly he had to switch from No. 14 to 20.

Green at least was pleased to have the crowd recognize his team.

"I love it. We have to get so every team in the league boos us. That means we're doing our job out there. Before we just didn't put up much of a fight. Tonight we played well, at least for the last two periods.

"But let's face it. Montreal was just sitting there fresh and healthy and they were really flying. We had a tough physical game last night and we were a step behind them most of the game.

"This was a hell of an experience for Howie (Walker), Darren (Veitch) and Jim McTaggart," Green said.