Friday the 13th holds no special fear for the Washington Capitals. Any Friday will do.

The Capitals, outplayed from start to finish by the Quebec Nordiques, dropped a 5-3 decision last night at Capital Centre. Although it was only their 11th loss of the season and third in the last 21 games, it brought their Friday record to 0-5.

A contributing factor to the defeat was that Washington played most of the game without forwards Bob Carpenter and Alan Haworth.

Carpenter, a 30-goal scorer, suffered a whiplash when he was cross-checked in front of the Quebec net late in the first period. Although his neck will be X-rayed today, he is expected to be ready for Tuesday's game at Detroit.

Haworth needed six stitches above the right eye and three below it after he was whacked by the stick of Wilf Paiement in the first period. Haworth had barely returned in the second period when he became involved in a fierce fight with Bruce Bell. Despite his previous eye damage, the linesmen took their time intervening and, after spending a brief period in the penalty box, Haworth became ill and departed.

For a further touch of misfortune, Craig Laughlin crashed into the boards in the third period and injured his left hand, which is also scheduled for X-rays today.

J.F. Sauve and Paiement each scored twice for the Nordiques, who doubtless would have had an easier time except for the outstanding third-period goaltending of Pat Riggin.

Riggin stopped all nine shots that came his way in that session, including breakaways by Mark Kumpel and Dale Hunter. Bob Gould's sixth goal of the season brought the Capitals within 4-3 with 12:43 remaining and Gould had a chance to tie it, but an empty netter by Paiement completed the scoring with 28 seconds left.

The game wound up an odd season series in which all games were won by the visitors, Washington having captured two previous meetings in Quebec City.

The Capitals, outshot, 10-1, in the first period, trailed by only 1-0, Sauve connecting in a four-on-three power-play situation. Defensemen Scott Stevens and Larry Murphy joined Riggin in protecting the Capitals' net against the relentless assault by a Quebec team that was missing its leading scorer, Michel Goulet.

The crowd of 15,525 was not happy with the sixth one-shot period in the Capitals' 11-year history, frequently booing during the last 3:53 when the Capitals had a man advantage without once testing Quebec goalie Richard Sevigny.

Providing further embarrassment and no doubt prompting the Capitals to press unnecessarily were the frequent announcements of the penalty time remaining. There are no penalty clocks at Capital Centre, that space on the scoreboard being filled by advertisements, and the tiny figures on TelScreen that normally display that information malfunctioned.

Washington Coach Bryan Murray was furious when no penalty was called for Paiement's high stick on Haworth in front of the Washington bench until after Haworth had pursued the offending Nordique and swung his stick in retaliation, with resulting coincidental majors.

"That changed the whole complexion of the hockey game, getting offsetting penalties instead of a five-minute power play," Murray said. "But that's a crybaby view. The other view is that Quebec came in, played hard, took the body and was much more aggressive than we were."

The scoreless 20 minutes ended a string of 19 straight periods in which Washington had scored. But Mike Gartner, set up by Larry Murphy, tied the game with his 24th goal on a power play early in the second.

After Quebec's Brent Ashton beat Riggin from the slot, Dave Christian rebounded Mike McEwen's shot to make it 2-2.

Sauve put the Nordiques ahead to stay with Rod Langway in the penalty box for holding, giving Quebec a two-for-two night on the power play.

Before the second period ended, the Nordiques boosted their margin to 4-2 on a shorthanded score by Paiement, who netted a rebound after Riggin had stopped Ashton's breakaway. It was only the second shorthanded goal of the season against Washington, Edmonton posting the other during a late-game, empty-net situation.

When Gould, after taking Greg Adams' pass, slid the puck under Sevigny's left pad, there was reason to believe that the Capitals could pull it out.

With seven minutes left, Gould took Rod Langway's feed in the left-wing circle and fired a shot that Sevigny managed to deflect just enough to push wide of the far post.

"With 12 minutes left, it appeared we decided to play," Murray said. "But Sevigny got a few breaks, and that happens. When a guy sits out 40 games, he deserves some."

Stevens was not around for the last 3:10, having drawn a misconduct penalty for an exchange of challenges with unidentified Nordiques on the bench.

"Guys who aren't playing yell at me, I yell back and I get the penalty," Stevens said. "That's ridiculous."