Dennis Maruk enhanced his All-Star status with his 11th career hat trick last night. The achievement lost some of its luster, however, when the Quebec Nordiques wiped out a two-goal deficit in the third period and tied the Capitals, 5-5, at Capital Centre.

Maruk's three goals gave him 41 for the season and the third, at 9:18 of the second period, gave Washington a 4-2 lead. Bengt Gustafsson rebuilt the two-goal margin early in the third period, but Slovak expatriates Miroslav Frycer and Anton Stastny gave the Nordiques a standoff.

Maruk was wired for sound throughout the evening by the ESPN cable people and he admitted to use of a few four-letter words, particularly when Quebec scored and when he was hooked down late in the second period by the Nordiques' Peter Stastny.

"Something slipped out there," said Maruk, who put his stick against Stastny's throat in a classic cross check and not only went unpenalized, but saw the Nordiques draw another penalty because Stastny did not go directly to the penalty box.

Washington did not score during the two-man, two-minute advantage as Quebec goalie Dan Bouchard made excellent saves on Maruk and Chris Valentine, and Ryan Walter rattled a post. Although Gustafsson scored on a rebound of Rick Green's shot 34 seconds after the double penalty ended, both Peter Stastny and Quebec Coach Michel Bergeron insisted that the successful penalty-killing effort turned things around for the Nordiques.

Just 29 seconds after Gustafsson scored, Peter Stastny cut around the net with Green shadowing him. Goalie Al Jensen flopped and had no chance when Stastny came around the other side of the cage and slid the puck to Frycer for a tap-in that made it 5-4.

Eight seconds after the Capitals killed off a holding minor on Glen Currie, the Nordiques tied it. Buddy Cloutier set up Dale Hunter in close and Jensen blocked it, but the rebound kicked straight up the slot to Anton Stastny, who put it in the net.

Almost 15 minutes remained, but there were few good scoring chances thereafter, as the heat and high intensity of play seemed to tire both teams. Jensen made an outstanding save on Cloutier, set free by Michel Goulet's pass, and then the Nordiques seemed willing to take the one point.

"I'm a little disappointed we only got the one point," said Maruk, who confessed to weariness. "I think we played a good enough game to beat them and get the two points.

"Last night's game (a 6-4 victory in Pittsburgh) was important to us and we put a lot into it. We got into town today and didn't have much time to rest, but I think it's a real good sign that we were able to play this well."

By picking up the one point, the Capitals reached the All-Star break 11 points behind the struggling Penguins, the team they must beat out to earn a playoff berth.

Washington Coach Bryan Murray was upset because the Capitals failed to take advantage of several chances while they were out in front.

"We were going pretty well in the second period and we should have tucked in a couple more and Bouchard would have packed it in," Murray said. "But we let it get away and they came back."

Maruk's second goal, which tied the game at 2-2, was scored with Walter straddling the line marking the front of the crease and bumping Bouchard, as well.

Bouchard complained to referee Gregg Madill when the goal was allowed, then pointed with his stick to the TelScreen replay. Bouchard has a history of losing concentration when he is angry and Washington quickly put two more past him.

Bouchard came out to pursue a loose puck but Mike Gartner beat him to it, shoving it free for Valentine to knock into the empty net. Then Maruk shot from an acute angle on the left wing and the puck hopped off Bouchard's stick into the net.

Gaetan Duchesne flubbed a chance to make it 5-2 on Bobby Gould's setup, play quickly shifted to the other end and Cloutier netted his 24th goal on a breakaway. That, plus the wasted two-man advantage, let it get away.