Their last three meetings with the New York Islanders have produced the kind of games Washington would prefer to forget, the latest being Wednesday night's 7-1 defeat.

Unfortunately for the Capitals, they will face New York at least three more times in the opening round of the NHL playoffs.

In between, Washington plays the Red Wings in Detroit tonight and finishes the season at home Sunday with the New York Rangers.

"They seemed to feel the pressure a lot more than we did," said Islander Bob Nystrom, who scored the last goal. "It was an important game for us, too, but we were more relaxed."

Washington Coach Bryan Murray was a little more blunt. "We got blown out," he said. After losses to them on Feb. 10, 8-3, and March 12, 6-2, Murray had said his own team's lapses "made them look as good as they possibly could."

But following Wednesday's game, the much-talked-of preview of next week's matchup, Murray said if his team cannot match the Islanders' power man for man in some situations, the Capitals will not be able to beat the Islanders.

Murray had viewed the videotape of the Islanders game twice and was about to watch it again before yesterday's brief practice. "We really didn't get very many scoring chances against them," he said. "They did so many good things against us, and at the same time, we were making mistakes."

Murray seemed slightly puzzled in trying to explain the Islanders' domination of his team.

On December 23, the Capitals beat the Islanders, 5-1, in Uniondale, N.Y. "I thought we controlled them pretty well," he said. "Since then, we've had a couple of down times there. Al (Jensen) goes in and doesn't have a good game. Then Pat (Riggin) didn't play well against them here. Part of it (the problem) must be mental. Maybe we're just so psyched out by them."

Goalie Riggin, looking slightly shell-shocked, said the second goal of the night, a soft shot by Tomas Jonsson from near the right boards that somehow rolled between the goalie's legs at 8:23 of the first period, did not shake him. The goal, 30 seconds after Mike Bossy had beaten Riggin, was "just an indication of how the night was going to be," he said. "No wonder people booed. If my wife was watching, she'd boo."

Murray credits the Islanders with an overall edge in efficiency, in both ends of the ice.

"Without a doubt, the Islanders are more efficient in supporting each other when they do get the puck," he said. "It has a lot to do with experience, of course. When you talk about their centers, you've got (Bryan) Trottier, Butch Goring, and Wayne Merrick; we talk about Dennis (Maruk), Doug (Jarvis) and (Bobby) Carpenter. From size and strength, it's just not the same.

"Now that they've beaten us, I'm sure they think they can take us. Well, we've got them right where we want them now," he deadpanned. "It'll be different next time. We'll be making a few adjustments. Terry (Murray, assistant coach) is going to play, I'll play, and maybe even (General Manager) David Poile."