Right wing Dave Christian of the Washington Capitals made his third formal visit to the White House yesterday and, as a 1980 Olympic gold medalist, was singled out for special attention by President Reagan.

Christian's father, 1960 gold medalist Bill, was beaming proudly and Dave Christian conceded it was a memorable occasion. Still, it did not quite equal that first White House celebration in 1980.

"That was a real surprise," Dave Christian recalled. "We flew right out of Lake Placid and wound up on the back lawn. Of course, the whole experience was a surprise. And we were lucky. We got to go after the Olympics, not before."

The 1988 U.S. Olympians were Reagan's guests along with the Capitals yesterday and obviously it will be a monumental task for this Olympic team to match the Miracle of 1980. The next small step will occur tonight when the Olympians face the Capitals in an 8 p.m. exhibition at Capital Centre.

Dave Christian will be reliving other memories, as he skates on a line with Bengt Gustafsson and Mike Ridley. It will be Gustafsson's first appearance with the Capitals since March 1986 and nobody is more eager to see No. 16 out there than Christian.

As Gustafsson's linemate in 1985-86, Christian enjoyed his best NHL numbers, 41 goals and 83 points. Last year, with Gustafsson in Sweden, Christian was limited to 23 goals and 50 points.

"As far as scoring goals and collecting points, last year was disappointing," Christian said. "I guess I didn't adjust as well as I should have to playing different positions.

"I guess I was secure with Gus here, because I was always at right wing. With him gone, I was always wondering where I would play and how I would be used. There was security in knowing I'd skate a regular shift, kill penalties, play the power play.

"I'm excited about this season. I've been looking forward to Gus getting back. I want to have a good season and, I think, if everything goes the way it should, this will be a very good year for the team."

Married this summer for the second time, Christian chose to reject an invitation from the U.S. entry in the Canada Cup.

"If this would have been the first Canada Cup, I would have gone," Christian said. "But I wanted to make sure I was prepared for this season with the Capitals, to have a full training camp and get ready to play. I also wanted my marriage to get off on the right foot. We're away enough without going off for six weeks before the season starts."

Coach Bryan Murray has been pleased with Christian's work, even before his first game competition in Gustafsson's company.

"He's very enthusiastic, much more so than last year," Murray said. "He's still pressing a little at the finish, not getting off his shot the way he can, but I'm sure that will come. The way he and Gus look for each other, having them back together can only help us."

Capitals Notes: Goalie Pete Peeters, who will face the Olympians tonight, stopped two Reagan shots yesterday before obligingly pretending surprise and yielding a goal when Reagan, with a borrowed stick, bent over to reset the puck, then suddenly wound up and shot.