TROY, N.Y., SEPT. 20 -- Preseason counts for nothing. When you're 0-2-1, that's a comforting thought.

The Washington Capitals might need that comfort as they head home Monday after losing to the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, tonight before a crowd of 3,300 in the Houston Field House on the campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The Capitals led, 2-1, at the start of the third period and had four man-advantage situations after the Sabres had taken the 3-2 lead.

Doug Smith tied the game at 2-2 when he beat Pete Peeters off the rebound of a shot by rookie Jeff Capello at 1:44 of the third period. Rookie defenseman Calle Johansson put the Sabres ahead, 3-2, with a power-play goal at 3:30.

Pierre Turgeon, the No. 1 pick in the NHL, assisted on Johansson's goal for his second point in two games against the Capitals.

Peeters, who had replaced Alain Raymond midway through the second period, was replaced by Raymond after Smith scored. Peeters appeared to have nothing more than an equipment problem, however, and returned to finish out the period.

Ed Kastelic and Dale Hunter scored the goals for the Capitals. Michal Pivonka assisted on each. John Tucker scored an early goal for the Sabres.

The Capitals took a 1-0 first-period lead at 16:48 when Kastelic batted a low shot past Daren Puppa from about 10 feet. Pivonka set up the goal, knocking down a high pass from behind the net and backhanding it out to Kastelic.

The period was marred by several altercations, including one between Capitals winger Jim Thomson and Sabres defenseman Steve Dykstra. Thomson picked up an additional 10-minute misconduct late in the period when he threw down his gloves and challenged Sabres defenseman Bob Halkidis. Halkidis, engaged in a roughing match with Lou Franceschetti, flashed Thomson the peace sign. That appeared to infuriate Thomson, who had to be escorted off the ice by referee Paul Stewart.