David Poile, the general manager of the Washington Capitals, sweated through some anxious moments Thursday night before finalizing the goaltender exchange that brought Pete Peeters here and sent Pat Riggin to the Boston Bruins.

"The deal was predicated on (Doug) Keans not getting hurt in the game at Toronto," Poile said. "I was watching on the satellite and the game dragged along and went into overtime. Then right near the end Keans made a save and it looked like he might be hurt. I was in agony until he got up."

Poile was eager to obtain Peeters for one major reason. He feels it brings the Capitals a step closer to the Stanley Cup.

The New York Islanders have eliminated the Capitals from the playoffs three years in a row, largely because they have received superior goaltending from Bill Smith.

"That was the big reason for making the deal," Poile said. "It was not for this week or for this month, but a long-range thing. Pete Peeters is the type of goaltender who can play in the playoffs and win in the playoffs.

"His track record, particularly in big-game situations, is an excellent one. And Al Jensen has played well whenever he's been healthy. He's had some down time, but always because of injuries. Today I feel much better about our goaltending than anytime since I've been here."

What Poile obviously is hoping is that Peeters will match the brilliance of his initial seasons with Philadelphia and Boston.

As a Flyers rookie in 1979-80, the year Philadelphia set a professional sports record by going unbeaten in 35 straight games, he went 27 without a loss. Traded to Boston in 1982 after signs of slippage and problems with the media, he responded with a 40-victory, 2.36 goals-against season that earned him the Vezina Trophy and first all-star status.

Peeters will not join the Capitals until they leave Boston Sunday, following tonight's game against the Bruins. Rick St. Croix was summoned from Fort Wayne to back up Jensen against Vancouver last night at Capital Centre and in Boston tonight.

Although expressing disappointment at leaving Washington, Riggin said he was pleased to be going to Boston. The move offers double satisfaction, because he always has been successful in Boston Garden, and an old friend in horse racing circles, former Bruins coach Gerry Cheevers, is the promotions director at nearby Rockingham Park.

"I wish I'd played better for Washington," Riggin said. "I wish the Washington Capitals luck and I wish Al Jensen luck. He deserves to be No. 1. He's played better than I have.

"I have no grudges against anybody. I loved it here and I met a lot of fine people, my teammates as well as people off the ice. But that's part of the job. Going to Boston is nice."

There was an amusing incident 1 1/2 hours after the trade was announced. Peeters, given the wrong number by the Bruins' general manager, Harry Sinden, called Riggin instead of Poile.

"I asked, 'How are you doing?' and he said, 'Fine, how are you doing?' " Riggin said. "It was a little awkward. But at least it gave us a chance to talk about houses."

"The toughest part for me is to get my family in Washington," Peeters said. "I'm not much good when I'm stuck away from my family."

Both are married; Riggin has two daughters, Peeters one son.

The deal brought back memories of 11 months ago, when Jensen's name was mentioned along with Alan Haworth in trade talks with Hartford that never were consummated.

"A lot of names always get mentioned and they say that the best trades are the ones you don't make," Poile said. "Our trading of a goaltender specifically has been going on for a long time. You never know where you'll hit the formula that completes a trade. I'm not saying it was that way, but it could have been that we were talking about Al Jensen until yesterday and Harry said he wanted Riggin and we agreed on it." Team captain Rod Langway, whose acquisition from Montreal turned the Capitals into a contender, said, "You never know how these things will work out, so there's no sense saying it will help us or hurt us. We all wish Patty the best."

Defenseman Yves Beaudoin, who had played four games with Washington, was returned to Binghamton yesterday.

The Whalers are short-handed on the backline once again, after John Hutchings was denied entry to the United States when the team returned from Nova Scotia. He was on a tryout contract and his 30-day visa had expired. Contacted in Oshawa, Ontario, he said, "I got deported."