The Washington Federals held tryouts in the wrong place yesterday. They should have been checking Capital Centre, where the Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals executed the most convincing tackles seen in the area since the Redskins went on vacation.

In a game stretched to 2 hours 45 minutes by one major brawl, several minor scuffles and other stoppages of play too numerous to mention, the teams fought to a 1-1 tie last night that proved helpful to both and entertaining to few of the 11,401 who witnessed it. It was playoff-style hockey without the potential excitement of overtime.

The Capitals took over second place in the Patrick Division, one point ahead of the New York Islanders.

They can add to that margin tonight when lowly New Jersey visits Capital Centre at 7:30. The Canucks meanwhile moved into a second-place tie with Calgary in the Smythe Division.

Mike Gartner put Washington's first shot behind Vancouver goalie John Garrett at the 56-second mark of the first period, on a rebound of Bengt Gustafsson's drive off a post. Garrett, acquired from Quebec in early February, stopped the next 35, including 16 in the third period.

"John Garrett has been playing great hockey for us . . . unbelievable . . . great practically every time out," said Vancouver Coach Roger Neilson, whose Canucks have lost only two of their last 11 games. "We haven't lost much lately. It's sort of like our run at the end of last year (when Vancouver went unbeaten in its last nine regular-season games and reached the Stanley Cup final)."

"We knew it would be that way," said Washington Coach Bryan Murray. "There was a lot of dumping and a lot of faceoffs. It doesn't fill many buildings, but they got a point on the road and that's what they wanted."

Referee Kerry Fraser did not call a minor penalty in the last two periods, although there was plenty of opportunity. He was calling it the way NHL officials usually call close playoff games--not at all.

Each team was presented with one power-play opportunity. Vancouver cashed its chance with 30 seconds left in the first period, after Scott Stevens had been sent off for tripping Ron Delorme.

Stan Smyl netted his 34th goal on a rebound after Washington goalie Pat Riggin had stopped a long shot by Rick Lanz and rebounds by Darcy Rota and Smyl.

The Capitals' extra-man chance is best forgotten. It covered five minutes, of which the first four showed feeble organization before Garrett was tested three times over the last 60 seconds. It came about, oddly, because of a fight instigated by a Capital.

Randy Holt, bumped into the boards by Vancouver's Tony Tanti on an icing call, was still carrying a chip on his shoulder when he and Patrik Sundstrom banged into the boards, sticks a bit high, at 4:14 of the first period. Holt quickly dropped his gloves and unloaded on the Swede.

Vancouver's Tiger Williams raced across the ice and cross-checked Holt into the boards, cutting Holt's lip. Gartner then piled into Williams and all the players on the ice became involved. The principal casualty was Washington captain Rod Langway, cut for six stitches above the left eye by Gartner's skate.

Holt, who left before the dressing room was opened following the game, drew a major penalty and a game misconduct, his fourth of the season. That automatically suspends him for the next two games and the Capitals recalled Paul MacKinnon from Hershey to replace him. It also gave Holt 256 penalty minutes, breaking the club record of 250 he set last year.

Williams was given a 10-minute match penalty for deliberate injury, as well as his third game misconduct. Williams, who leads the NHL with 265 minutes, was previously suspended for using his stick on Islander goalie Bill Smith, so he figures to be sidelined longer than Holt.

It was a quick night for Williams, considering that he and the Canucks had flown 3,000 miles for this game and faced a 3,000-mile flight home. But he once had a quicker one here, leaving after eight seconds when he fought Washington's Bill Riley.

"I had no choice but to help my teammate," Williams said. "In the same situation, I'd do it again. The kid has never dropped his gloves to fight in his life and here all three refs are standing there allowing the second-most penalized guy in the league to hit him five or six times."

"Everybody knows Sundstrom is not a fighter and Randy Holt was after him. I don't care what the league says, it was a good play in Tiger's part," said Garrett. "It shows the spirit of our team."

It cost the Capitals between $20,000 and $25,000 to bring the Canucks back to play the game that was snowed out Feb. 11. If the entertainment was not worth it, perhaps the point will prove more valuable.