It was Pete Peeters' first start after yielding eight goals in Pittsburgh and late in the first period Wednesday night he blew a 90-foot shot by Gaston Gingras that put Montreal one up on the Washington Capitals.

In the pressure-packed Forum crease where Bill Durnan, Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden achieved Hall of Fame status, Peeters almost could hear the whispers from Philadelphia and Boston, the unkind words that said, at age 28, Peeters had lost his touch.

Since Montreal's first goal had been a trifle soft, there was reason for Peeters to lose his confidence and even more reason for Coach Bryan Murray to give up on his goaltender.

Neither occurred. By game's end, Peeters had faced 43 shots, the high figure against Washington this season, and stopped 39, including seven in a five-minute overtime, to help the Capitals earn a 4-4 tie.

Peeters' ability to bounce back came as no surprise to Murray. In posting an 11-6-2 record since he was obtained from Boston Nov. 14, Peeters frequently has looked shaky early, but if the game is close down the stretch, he is hard to beat.

"That's been his history since he came, playing so-so early and giving up questionable goals, then with the game on the line he's made some great stops," Murray said. "If we can just get him to play like that in first periods, our goaltending will be in good shape for the playoffs."

Peeters offered no alibis for Gingras' dipping drive from the red line.

"I have no excuse for it," Peeters said. "It was a bad goal. I watched it, I was on it and then I lost it. It went between my arm and my pad.

"At that point, I'm just saying, 'What do I have to do?' I'm in the game, I'm working hard, I think I'm concentrating and then I let in a bad goal. I wonder, 'What do I have to do to stop allowing these goofy goals?'

"The whole game, I just concentrated on what [assistant coach] Warren [Strelow] and I have been working on. If it's going to take a couple games, then it will take a couple games, but I'm convinced we'll get things turned around."

Actually, it just took another period. After Kjell Dahlin's close-range goal gave the Canadiens a 3-1 lead, Peeters came up big several times and on each occasion the Capitals bounced back to score.

"Pete gave up the one from the red line and everybody felt the last time he played, that 8-1 game in Pittsburgh, we didn't do much out there," said Dave Christian, who started the rally with his second goal of the game. "We weren't going to quit on Pete this time, and we told him that in the dressing room after the first period. Then he made some big saves and we got rolling."

Christian scored on his own rebound, following a rinkwide pass from Bengt Gustafsson, not long after Peeters moved out to block a tough shot by Randy Bucyk.

Scott Stevens' tying goal from the left point, with Lou Franceschetti screening goalie Patrick Roy, came shortly after Peeters foiled a breakaway by Mats Naslund.

Then Larry Murphy put Washington ahead, off a Mike Gartner steal and setup, after Peeters somehow blocked a deflected Gingras shot with the shaft of his stick.

Smith's second goal, on a deflection off Stevens' shoulder, completed the scoring early in the third period. But there was plenty of action left for the 17,378 fans.

Peeters made a big stop on Chris Nilan after Stevens' giveaway and he made a spectacular save on a breakaway by Bob Gainey after Gustafsson lost the puck.

Then in the overtime, Peeters stopped all seven Montreal shots, including a tough one by Dahlin and Naslund's rebound.

"It was a great point for our hockey club, but I feel personally responsible for a brutal goal," Peeters said. "Of course, we goaltenders think every goal is a bad goal. But it's frustrating to have to remember one like that."

Left wing Jorgen Pettersson went back to Washington this morning to receive treatment for back and knee injuries. He is considered doubtful for Saturday's game in Philadelphia.

The other injured Capitals, right wing Mike Gartner (cut hand) and left wing Greg Adams (charley horse), are expected to be ready to face the Flyers.

Because of the injury situtation in Binghamton, it is unlikely anyone will be called up to replace Pettersson. David Jensen, the logical choice, has a pulled hamstring.