It seemed like the same script but, as usual, it did not include a happy ending for the Washington Capitals. Buffalo goalie Don Edwards blocked a last-gasp shot by Chris Valentine tonight and the Sabres hung on to edge the Capitals, 3-2.

A shot by Buffalo's John Van Boxmeer struck both goal posts and spun out with two minutes left. The Sabres continued to press, so much so that Washington goalie Dave Parro never was able to leave the ice for a sixth skater.

With the clock running down, however, Van Boxmeer mishandled the puck and Valentine pounced on it and got off that final shot with one second showing. Edwards kept it out and there was no encore of Saturday's finish at Capital Centre, when the New York Rangers' Eddie Johnstone pulled out a 4-4 tie after a shot by Washington's Bobby Gould went off the crossbar at the other end.

"He (Van Boxmeer) got a pass and he bobbled it," Valentine said. "It hit my shin pad--I was down there just hoping for a breakaway--and I was able to shoot, but he hooked me and I couldn't get much on it."

Valentine, with a fine pass from behind the net, set up Dennis Maruk's 27th goal at 4:28 of the third period to give Washington an opportunity to tie the game.

Each team had good chances on two-on-one breaks, Edwards foiling Tim Tookey and Parro stopping Gil Perreault, before Van Boxmeer's twin-poster signaled the start of a final, frantic two minutes.

For all the excitement created by the close score, the last period seemed interminable, lasting 48 minutes and requiring 40 faceoffs. The numerous stoppages of play were caused by frequent offsides, icing calls, holding the puck against the boards, Parro's repeated hanging onto the puck and a fight between Washington's Torrie Robertson and the Sabres' Larry Playfair.

Then, in the closing two minutes, with Washington Coach Bryan Murray hoping for a faceoff, play continued at a mad pace, with only one whistle.

"We couldn't get it out of our end," Murray said. "I was looking for a faceoff, but we tried to rush it at the end instead of taking our time and making good plays. We had our chances tonight. We had a few two-on-ones and we got nothing out of them. You can't pass up those chances and still expect to win, but I was hoping we could pull out a tie. We had a heck of a chance to squeeze one out, but it just didn't happen."

By winning, Buffalo took over undisputed possession of first place in the tough Adams Division. The Capitals, meanwhile, fell 10 points behind the fourth-place Rangers in their deepening struggle for a Patrick Division playoff berth.

Parro, who seems to play better on the road, was sensational in blocking 15 first-period shots. In one sequence, he stopped both Ric Seiling and Craig Ramsay while lying on the ice without a stick.

Buffalo's only score of those 20 minutes came on a power play, with Darren Veitch off for holding. Van Boxmeer sent the puck into the slot from the right point and Yvan Lambert deflected it to Mike Foligno, who controlled the puck and beat Parro for his 18th goal. The assist was No. 38 for Van Boxmeer.

Mike Gartner's 13th goal pulled Washington even, as he made a skate deflection of a long shot by Wes Jarvis, who picked off an attempted clearing pass by Sabre Olympic hero Mike Ramsey.

Dale McCourt deflected a drive by Foligno for his 17th goal and the only score of the second period, as the two former Red Wings continue to make General Manager Scotty Bowman look good for that daring deal with Detroit.

Late in the period, Edwards made a superb glove save on Maruk at the finish of a three-on-one break.

Early in the third period, Richie Dunn made it 3-1 as he sent a 50-footer from the left point under Parro's glove and just inside the far post, after another principal in the Detroit trade, Brent Peterson, outdrew Maruk in the Washington end.

Maruk made amends for that on Valentine's setup, but the Capitals came no closer, leaving them with only one victory in their last eight games. The Sabres won all three games in the season series.