For the Washington Capitals, a home-ice tie is hardly the same as a tie in such inhospitable locations as Philadelphia, Edmonton and New Jersey.

A Capital Centre crowd of 9,144 frequently voiced its displeasure with the Capitals' inability to hold a lead last night, as three times they saw a one-goal margin disappear before concluding a 3-3 standoff with the Minnesota North Stars.

The Capitals' fourth tie in 14 games followed a 2-2 result in New Jersey on Saturday and extended the club's winless streak to four games.

"We were satisfied Saturday, but it's different playing at home, particularly playing a team we've had success against," said Coach Bryan Murray. "It's like we're jinxed in penalty killing."

Murray was referring to the fact that two of Minnesota's three goals came on power plays, in rather unfortunate circumstances. That raised to 20 the opposition's extra-man yield, compared to 39 in last season's entire 80-game schedule, when Washington ranked No. 1 in the NHL.

Murray hopes that will change with the return of Gaetan Duchesne, out since opening night with a broken left hand. With Duchesne due to play in Buffalo Friday, winger Lou Franceschetti was returned to Binghamton following last night's game.

If the result was unsatisfying, at least Murray came up with one good line. That was the newly united trio of Bryan Erickson, Doug Jarvis and Mike Gartner, which produced two goals and 15 of Washington's 35 shots.

When Erickson opened the scoring at 1:47 of the first period, it seemed the Capitals would rout the visitors, as in all three meetings a season ago. Erickson's fourth goal came on a deflection of a drive by Scott Stevens and Gartner earned the second assist to extend his scoring streak to 13 games.

"My stick just barely touched it," Erickson said. "I don't think it changed the direction of the shot."

The lead lasted until Washington's first penalty, to Glen Currie for hooking. Neal Broten, Erickson's high school teammate from Roseau, Minn., earned the first of his three assists by stripping the puck from Larry Murphy at the Washington blueline and flipping it into the crease for a tap-in by Willi Plett. That was Plett's first shot of the season; he missed 15 games with a dislocated shoulder.

Gartner made it 2-1 with his 10th goal, taking Jarvis' pass from behind the net and firing the puck into the top left corner from the slot.

The Capitals had a chance at a two-goal lead early in the second period as Bob Gould shot from the right-wing circle. The puck apparently struck the crossbar and caromed away; the Capitals argued vainly it had been in the net.

"It went off (Harold) Snepsts' stick and that may be why it went so funny," Gould said. "I don't know if it went in, because after I shot I was looking at Snepsts to see if he'd hit me."

The Capitals were even less cheered by Craig Hartsburg's goal late in the period. Broten skated down the middle and fed Brian Bellows at the right post. He shoveled it across to Hartsburg: 2-2.

Bob Carpenter's ninth goal put Washington ahead, 3-2, with 21 seconds left in the period. Murphy made a nice pass to Dave Christian, whose backhander was blocked by goalie Gilles Meloche. As the puck lay under the goaltender, Carpenter shoved it in.

Minnesota tied it for the final time at 7:25 of the third period, with Currie once again serving a penalty for hooking. Broten skated past Rod Langway, who fell, and dished the puck to Tom McCarthy at his left. McCarthy, playing since the second period with a possible cracked knuckle that will be X-rayed today, put the puck behind goalie Al Jensen.

In the remaining 12 1/2 minutes of regulation and the five-minute extra period, both teams had a number of fruitless scoring chances. Meloche and Jensen hung in under pressure, and Minnesota remained unbeaten in three games under new Coach Glen Sonmor.

"All the power play goals we're giving up are hard for me to understand," Murray said. "The first one, we're going out of the zone and Larry tries to make a play, instead of playing it safe.

"Then, on the last one, Rod falls down and the guy walks in. We haven't had that type of misfortune in a particular area. We're just not doing the things we've shown we're capable of doing -- bouncing the puck off the glass down the ice and standing up on defense."