In the last week, Scott Stevens has been hot. For longer than that, Alan Haworth had been cold. Each sizzled last night, scoring two goals apiece as the Washington Capitals defeated the Minnesota North Stars, 6-3, before 12,763 at Capital Centre.

The goals gave each player 12 for the season. For Stevens, it made five goals in four games. For Haworth, it ended a drought covering nine games, since before Christmas.

The victory, coming despite a weird stretch of three Minnesota goals on three shots in the second period, lifted the Capitals back into a first-place Patrick Division tie with Philadelphia.

The victim of that sudden flurry by the North Stars was rookie goaltender Bob Mason, but he refused to let it affect him. He stopped their last 17 shots and won his seventh straight game.

Washington, unbeaten in its last eight meetings with Minnesota, jumped into a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Haworth and Mike Gartner. Haworth beat a screened Gilles Meloche from the deep left wing boards and Gartner swept unchecked down the middle to lift his 26th goal over Meloche's right shoulder.

There were some things in the second period that happen only once in a blue ice -- that was the color last night, as the newly laid surface was tinted like a Minnesota lake.

Keith Acton scored the North Stars' first goal on a power play. He took Steve Payne's cross-crease pass and lifted the puck into -- well, that was the source of some discussion.

Although the red light came on, referee Denis Morel first waved off the score. Then, following conversations with goal judge Jim Wiseman and linesman Bob Hodges, he allowed it.

"It went in the top left corner and I threw the light," Wiseman said.

"That wasn't a goal," Mason insisted. "The puck went off my stick, hit my glove and then hit the crossbar and the post where they come together. He waved it off first and I don't know why he changed his mind. He was in a perfect position to see it right on the goal line."

A crazy bounce at the other end rebuilt the Capitals' two-goal advantage. On a power play, Mike McEwen fired from deep in the left wing corner. The puck struck Stevens in the knee and caromed in.

"I tried to move to get in a better position to deflect it and it hit me," Stevens said. "When it's going for you, they all seem to be going in."

It took 28 seconds for the North Stars to close to 3-2, on another of those unusual goals.

Tom McCarthy, trying to move in from the right wing corner, was checked hard by Washington captain Rod Langway. The puck slid forward into the crease, where Mason and Gartner expected each other to handle it. When they didn't, Dino Ciccarelli swatted it into the net.

"There was a little lack of communication," Gartner said. "I maybe should have had it -- it went off the end of my stick."

"I was going to hit it up the ice, but when I saw one of our players, I figured I'd let him have it," Mason said.

That mixup was forgotten when Craig Laughlin increased Washington's margin to 4-2 a mere 45 seconds later. Laughlin, who enjoyed a three-point night, was tripped by Bo Berglund after taking Haworth's pass and spun into Meloche, who had made the initial save. When Laughlin was through spinning along the ice, he had knocked the puck into the net with his body and the North Stars were screaming louder than the Capitals had been after Acton's goal.

"The whistle blew," Minnesota Coach Glen Sonmor insisted. "You blow the whistle when the play's over, not when you score a goal. There's no way that counts, unless they've counted the other one (by Acton)."

"Most refs will blow it dead, but he waited until it was over," Laughlin said. "Give him credit, he did the right thing."

Not long after, Washington was caught with too many men on the ice. Minnesota took advantage of the extra-man opportunity to pull within 4-3, Ciccarelli second goal off a perfect pass by Neal Broten.

It was the fifth goal in less than five minutes; it would be more than 22 minutes before anyone scored again. Then Haworth skated behind the Minnesota net and, after turning in the left wing circle, hit the far corner with the clinching goal.

"It's been frustrating not scoring a lot and since the injury not playing a lot," said Haworth, who was struck in the face by Wilf Paiement's stick during the Quebec game 10 days ago. "It's overdue and it's nice to pop a few goals."

Then Stevens, anything but overdue, lifted one over a fallen Meloche to complete his second two-goal game in a week.

In the second period, a backhander by Stevens struck Minnesota's Gordie Roberts in the face. Roberts faces X-rays today to determine the extent of the damage. Late in the game, a shot by Stevens struck teammate Bob Carpenter in the stomach; he left the ice doubled up but unhurt.

"I lost my stick and I was going to get another one when Scotty shot the puck at me," Carpenter said, laughing. "I guess he was going for a hat trick and didn't care what was in his way."