After throwing his body in front of 34 shots, four of them breakaways, Washington Capitals goalie Pat Riggin was a little disappointed by the way tonight's 3-3 tie ended.

"Overtime," he said, "was a bit anticlimactic, wasn't it?"

The Capitals managed no shots and the St. Louis Blues had only one in the extra five minutes after answering each other, goal for goal, in each period. Artistically, it was a letdown.

But don't try to slip that by Capitals Coach Bryan Murray. Tonight, in front of 9,205 at The Arena, his team won by tying.

The Capitals, winners of seven of eight games before this one, inched into second place in the Patrick Division all by themselves when New Jersey upset the New York Islanders, 7-5.

The Capitals (13-9-6) have 32 points to the Islanders' 31, and trail first-place Philadelphia, which has 39. The Capitals will play at Minnesota Wednesday night (8:35, WDCA-TV-20).

Meanwhile, the Blues (12-10-4) moved within one point of first-place Chicago in the Norris Division.

In a game of might-have-beens, both teams were fortunate to pull out a tie.

"We could have put them away in the first period," Murray said, "but, after that, we got a little defensive. We never really jumped out and took advantage of them.

"After the chances at both ends of the ice, a tie seems right."

Especially if the Blues are involved. In their last four games, the Blues' record is 0-1-3.

The scoring was symmetrical. The Blues scored first when, with one second left on a power play, defenseman Gilbert Delorme put a 35-foot slap shot past Riggin, who said he was screened and "never saw the puck."

The goal, Delorme's first of the season, came at 9:01 of the first period, one minute and 59 seconds after Bob Carpenter was called for holding.

It was the 28th power-play goal the Capitals have given up this season. They allowed only 39 all last season.

The Capitals came back nearly 10 minutes later to tie the game when defenseman Darren Veitch, cutting up the ice from his end, passed across the ice to Mike Gartner on the right wing.

Gartner moved in on goalie Rick Wamsley, and, as Gartner began to fall against center Jim Pavese -- who was back on defense for St. Louis -- he flicked a wrist shot over Wamsley's right shoulder into the goal.

Gartner's goal, his 15th of the season, came at 18:57 of the first period.

For 28 seconds midway through the second period, the Capitals held a 2-1 lead on center Doug Jarvis' goal on a two-on-one break with left wing Greg Adams at 8:12.

But the Blues came right back when Capitals defenseman Scott Stevens, trying to clear the puck, couldn't handle a crazy bounce, and the score was tied again, 2-2.

"It was a slap shot, real hard, and it was kind of bouncing toward me," Stevens said later. "I went to stop it and it went forward off my stick."

St. Louis center Doug Gilmour, "wheeling in," as Stevens said, took the puck and easily surprised Riggin to tie the game at 8:40 of the second period.

The Capitals squandered their only power-play chance at the end of the period, setting up continued equality in the final period.

The Blues jumped back into the lead, 3-2, with 7:17 gone in the third period when Dave Barr stuffed a rebound of a shot by Jorgen Pettersson between Riggin and his left post.

The goal proved Riggin was not invinceable. Up to that point, he had stopped four breakaways -- three by right wing Joe Mullen and one by Craig Levie.

"I think Mullen was getting a little frustrated," Riggin said, smiling.

But the Capitals, as if on cue, answered that goal with another of their own when Carpenter, sliding through the crease, tapped in a rebound of Alan Haworth's slap shot at 12:26 of the final period, and the score again was tied, 3-3.

It was Carpenter's 22nd goal of the season, and gives him a point in each of his last nine games. Murray played Carpenter on five different lines tonight, trying to mix things up.

"I tried to jolt them a little bit," Murray said. "I wanted them to get into the game a little more. We got the tying (third) goal because of it, but maybe they got their third goal because of it, too."

Throughout most of that final period, Murray was experimenting. "I never want to give the players the satisfaction of standing pat," he said.

Somewhere along the line, he also realized a tie wasn't going to be so bad.

"As the game wore on," he said, "I was glad to get the one point."