After just four days on ice at training camp, the Washington Capitals beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-1, tonight in their first of 11 exhibition games.

"We have been saying all along that defense is our strength, and we showed that style here tonight," said General Manager David Poile, looking especially pleased. "One goal against us is not a bad way to start."

The Capitals scored with 39 seconds played, when Bobby Carpenter picked up a cross-ice feed from Mike Gartner, and the outcome of the game was never much in doubt.

A power-play goal by Craig Laughlin in the first period left the already disorganized Maple Leafs looking more so, as they put only 18 shots on goal to the Capitals' 23.

"They play that dump-and-chase style of hockey. It's pretty much what we expected here, and tonight that's all they did," said Coach Bryan Murray, who praised the play of Alan Haworth, who helped set up Laughlin's goal, and defenseman Peter Andersson, who looked strong on the power play.

"We had a lot of chances, although we were out of sync a bit," Murray said. "But what do you expect after three, four days of training camp?"

The Capitals, who play the Minnesota North Stars at London and Kitchener, Ontario, Friday and Saturday, appeared in far better condition than the Maple Leafs, despite spending the same amount of time in camp. "Our guys are in shape and, of course, this was most of our big team, the team that finished the year last season," Poile said.

Washington got the only goal of the second period on Bobby Gould's unassisted rush toward Mike Palmateer. With both teams killing minor penalties, Gould, taking the puck inside his team's zone, skated directly at the Toronto net. As Palmateer skated out to deflect the shot, the puck slid into the back of the cage at 1:22.

But if the puck stopped, Gould didn't. His momentum carried him onto the crossbar, where he clung a few seconds before celebrating Washington's 3-1 lead.

Both clubs collected too many minor penalties--eight for Toronto, nine for Washington--and frequently skated two players short.