In a sneak preview of next weekend's home-and-home series, the Washington Capitals ended their exhibition season tonight with a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Capitals, 5-2-1 in exhibitions, will open their NHL season Wednesday night in New York against the Rangers.

Washington Coach Bryan Murray was happier with his team's defense than he had been during previous preseason games, saying, "I like what I see, but we have a little way to go."

Although the Flyers' usual physical style added a few black-and-blue marks to Capitals bodies, Washington's defense and Pat Riggin's most consistent performance in goal provided an edge.

Flyer Bill Barber scored the game's first goal at 10:33, but the Flyers gave Washington's cause a boost six minutes later. Dennis Maruk skated into Rick St. Croix's cage, propelling the puck ahead of him while shoved from behind by Flyer Behn Wilson.

Penalties littered the scoresheet and Murray used the opportunties to test the power play unit of Brian Engblom, Ken Houston, Milan Novy, Bengt Gustafsson and Mike Gartner, with Craig Laughlin taking the odd turn.

Houston made the most of his chance at the start of the second period, hitting the puck up and into St. Croix's mask, then picking up his own rebound for a goal at 1:16.

Ron Flockhart followed to even things at 10:20, but Gartner, skating in on the Philadelphia net with less than two minutes left in the period, gave the Capitals the goal that made the difference. He also had the game-winner Thursday against Detroit.

Murray credited the Flyers with a well-played game. "I saw them against Montreal, and they weren't nearly this well organized," he said. "But we maybe didn't play as well as we could have."

Citing Phidelphia's tactic of "going after the new guys" -- in this case, rookie Scott Stevens and Czech import Milan Novy -- Murray maintained that, "We need to have people out there that they're aware of, like a Randy Holt or Dave Hutchison (neither played tonight)."

"By doing that, they don't run at the new ones. What we had here tonight, yes, it's a team, but maybe a change or two yet."