Center Glen Currie left the showers adjacent to the Washington Capitals' dressing room tonight and returned to his cubicle to dress. Then he stared at his boots, particularly the right one, because about three inches at the toe had been cut off.

The Capitals, tight as trampolines a week ago, are a loose group now. They are also in 15th place in the National Hockey League, following tonight's 2-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

Goalie Mike Palmateer, just about hooted our of Capital Centre eight nights back, followed his sensational performance in Philadelphia with a 25-save shutout, the second of this season and the 17th of his NHL career.

Tim Tookey and Mike Gartner scored the Washington goals, both on power plays. In building a four-game unbeaten streak, the Capitals have scored six power-play goals, three by Tookey.

It took extra effort for Tookey to score the only goal Washington needed, at 14:15 of the first period. He carried the puck in from the blueline, despite being tied up most of the way by Mark Kirton, and managed to get off a shot that went between the legs of rookie goalie Larry Lozinski.

"I leaned on him, took the shot off balance, got a lucky break and it went in," said Tookey, who had four goals in the last four games despite limited playing time.

Gartner scored his 45th goal at 6:57 of the second period to extend his club-record point-scoring streak to 14 games. Jean Pronovost shot the puck off the rear boards and Dennis Maruk retrieved it and passed out to Gartner for a 20-foot rifle shot. The assist gave Maruk 90 points, tying his one-season club mark set two years ago; Gartner has 89.

The Capitals had several chances to increase their margin, but Lozinski stopped Rolf Edberg on a breakway, Pronovost lined a shot off the crossbar and Bengt Gustafsson hit the crossbar on a breakaway.

But Detroit was unable to beat Palmateer. Holding penalties to John Barrett with 4:56 left and to Reed Larson with 3:35 remaining did not help the Wings' comeback. Pulling Lozinski for a sixth skater with 49 seconds on the clock, Detroit finally applied some pressure, but Palmateer stopped a shot by Kirton and Willie Huber's close-up rebound to save the shutout.

Despite Palmateer's two excellent efforts on the road, Coach Gary Green said he would start Gary Inness in goal when the Capitals return to Capital Centre for a 8 p.m. Friday game with Hartford. Washington will try to complete its first sweep of a season series. It will also be attempting to gain some breathing space over Edmonton and Toronto, which share 16th place, one point behind Washington, as well as to overtake the 14th-place New York Rangers. Edmonton had taken 15th place with a defeat of the Whalers Wednesday night.

"The team's a little tired now and we have to expect a tough one tomorrow night," Green said. "We didn't play the game we played in Philadelphia, but we didn't fall flat on our face, either. No matter who you play, you have to be ready for them. I can't believe Toronto tonight (beating Boston), but it shows you can't depend on anybody else. You have to do it yourself. God knows what'll happen with this schedule.

"Mike Palmateer played extremely well tonight and we were anticipating he'd play that way. Now he's tired and that's why we said Gary Inness couldn't play every game. Now Palmy had his confidence back and Gary Inness is full of confidence, hungry and ready to go."

The game was not a classic and the crowd of 12,813 saved its loudest cheers for the announcement that one minute remained. One reason for their displeasure was the condition of the ice, which was not conducive to sharp passing, even if neither team was capable of it.

"There was water on the ice and the passes were hitting water," Green said. "It was like a swimming pool out there and we needed a lot of skate repairs.

Green had as much trouble behind the bench as some of his players encountered on the slush. A puck fired by Darren Veitch barely missed his head and the butt end of a stick came close, too.

"That's the worst bench in the league to see from," Green said. "As soon as somebody stands up, you can't see anything. I was just ducking any time the puck came near."