After three games, the Washington Capitals' leader in penalties is right wing Mike Gartner, who sat out six minutes Sunday night in Boston for a three-game total of eight.

If the sight of Gartner in the penalty box is an unpleasant one for Washington fans, a look at what opponents are doing to him on the ice hardly makes for family entertainment, either.

The Capitals have been gifted with nine power-play opportunities in their last two games, five because of fouls against Gartner that included kneeing, interference, elbowing, and tripping twice. On one trip, by Boston's Peter McNab, Gartner was simultaneously tackled by Keith Crowder and jammed his right wrist underneath him. It was taped yesterday, but the injury will not keep him out of Wednesday's game with Philadelphia.

The uncalled violations would fill a rule book. Gartner was hacked, chopped and grabbed frequently by both Detroit and Boston players, whether he had possession of the puck or not. His only goal came on a deflection when he reached out with his stick while on hands and knees after being pulled down by Detroit's Greg Smith.

Gartner twice went off for roughing in Boston, taking harassing Bruins Mike O'Connell and Crowder with him. His third minor was for holding Steve Kasper, who got away with plenty of that himself.

Asked whether his penalties resulted from frustration, Gartner replied, "Sure, a little bit. On two of them I took a guy off with me, and I don't mind that, but the other was a bad penalty. It was frustrating, but I can't help the team if I'm in the penalty box half the time.

"I'm trying to play as hard as I can. I don't mind being hauled down if they'll call the penalties, but it's frustrating when they don't. I guess they called about one out of five. Whenever I have the puck, it seems like somebody is draped over me."

With two games against Philadelphia coming up, the situation is not likely to improve, and if Coach Gary Green's warning proves accurate, this could be a long season for Gartner.

"Mike has to understand that when you're a 48-goal scorer, you get a lot of attention," Green said. "They're going to run interference on you, there's going to be a lot of cheap stuff and it's not going to get any better. You just have to learn to live with it."

It would probably be easier to live with if some teammates were retaliating against high scorers on the opposition. But the Capitals have been turning their other cheeks in response to attacks on Gartner, Bobby Carpenter and Dennis Maruk.

The Capitals have no enforcers, counting on togetherness to withstand opposition assaults. But during the exhibition campaign, the penalty leaders were Gartner, Carpenter and Ryan Walter, and so far there has been no evidence of change.

The Boston Garden game served as a homecoming of sorts for Carpenter, who scored his second goal of the season. It also was a landmark occasion for Washington defenseman Greg Theberge, making his first NHL appearance in the building where his grandfather, the late Aubrey (Dit) Clapper, spent 20 years as a player and four as coach.