Washington Capitals proved that on the short term at least, you can play with-out much of a defense in the National Hockey League.

Backstopped by the outstanding goaltending of Mike Palmateer, the Caps struggled to a 3-3 tie with the Vancouver Canucks in an NHL game tonight.

Mike Gartner broke a 2-2 tie 13 minutes into the final period when he walked around Mario Marois on the Vancouver defense, around the net, and stuffed the puck in behind Vancouver goalie Gary Bromley, who had replaced the injured Richard Brodeur.

But with only 11 seconds remaining, Per Olov Brasar drove a shot past Palmateer with Bromley pulled for a sixth skater and Vancouver pulled out the point.

It was the Caps 11th tie of the season, tops in the league. Thomas Gradin scored the other Vancouver goal to tie the game at 2-2 with six minutes gone in the third period.

Brodeur was hurt when nailed by his own defenseman Kevin MCarthy in a goalmouth crash.

At the outset, Palmateer had to make an outstanding save off Brent Ashton, who managed to walk between Howard Walker and Darren Veitch on the Cap defense. But Washington came back with an excellent opportunity of its own when Jean Pronovost hit the post from 15 feet after he picked up a stray puck in the Vancouver end.

Ryan Walter had a great chance in the slot with Mario Marois in the penalty box for hooking, but Vancouver goalie Richard Brodeur made a big save to keep the game scoreless.

Before the 13-minute mark, Vancouver had generated two more good chances, one a semibreakaway by Thomas Gradin and the other a mad scramble in which Ivan Boldirev had a good chance. But Palmateer watched both shots go wide.

Washington forechecked Vancouver extremely well for about five minutes after the Canuck chances, but it couldn't get good shots despite forcing several turnovers.

The forechecking forced Harold Snepsts to take holding penalty when he tackled Dennis Maruk, but the best scoring chance came on the power play from Vancouver's Gerry Minor. The Vancouver penalty killers stripped the puck from Veitch and slid a weak shot off the post.

Washington had a 17-second stint with a two-man advantage when Dave Williams took a five-minute major for high sticking Tim Tookey just outside the Vancouver blueline. But the big moment was when Palmateer stormed out of his goal after a loose puck and ended up colliding with Minor, who was trying to slip the puck past him into the open goal.

A hooking penalty to Marois late in the first period restored the two-man advantage, and the Caps opened the scoring 31 seconds into the the second period.

Bengt Gustafsson fed a pass back to Walker at the blueline and his shot deflected off Snepsts' skate and into the Vancouver goal. Maruk was instrumental in setting up the play, digging the puck out and getting it to Gustafsson.

Palmateer came up big again when Darcy Rota was in all alone from the blueline off a pass from Rick Lanz. Palmateer reacted quickly to his high shot.

After all that, Palmateer really started to play well. He robbed Stan Smyl and Gradin twice on the same play and made another fine save off Lanz, all within a minute.

Vancouver finally tied the score when Boldirez backhanded a rebound after the little goalie had made another fine save off Lanz on a shot from the blueline.

The Caps continued in their shell and were under pressure on the power play when Gustafsson and Wes Jarvis broke away on a two-on-one to score the Caps' sixth shortland goal of the year.Gustafsson ended up walking in alone and slipping the puck between Brodeur's legs for a 2-1 lead.

Caps were outshot, 18-6, in the second period.