LAKE PLACID, N.Y., OCT. 2 -- That trade with Quebec looks better every day. Dale Hunter scored both goals and Clint Malarchuk stopped 27 shots tonight as the Washington Capitals posted a 2-0 exhibition victory over the Hartford Whalers.

Hunter has five goals in four games; Malarchuk has a 1.67 goals-against average in four appearances.

"Malarchuk didn't give a rebound tonight," said Washington Coach Bryan Murray. "He faced some pretty good shots, but there was nothing left around. He was quick to cover and quick to move it.

"It seems when the other team leaves a puck around the net, Dale gets his stick on it. He has good balance and good puck sense."

Malarchuk stopped 14 shots during a scoreless first period as the Capitals, playing their first game in a week, were showing signs of rustiness.

Thereafter, Washington gained control and, by the finish, the Whalers were weary from chasing speedier Capitals around the big Olympic Center ice surface.

"It wasn't me," said Malarchuk, who came from Quebec with Hunter June 13 for Gaetan Duchesne, Alan Haworth and a first-round draft pick.

"Look around this room at these defensemen. I've never been so sure of myself, knowing that if I do my job, I have nothing to worry about. It's nice when guys like Scotty {Stevens} block the shots for you."

Stevens did more than block shots. He set up Hunter's first goal, at 9:58 of the second period, with a nifty move down the slot. Slipping past Hartford winger Paul MacDermid, Stevens put a backhand pass on Hunter's stick at the left post. Hunter whipped it past goalie Steve Weeks.

Hunter's second goal came on a power play at 1:11 of the third period, as he netted a rebound of Craig Laughlin's shot while being flattened by defenseman Ulf Samuelsson.

Samuelsson shattered his stick in frustration. Earlier, after Hunter's stick grazed Samuelsson's head, the two fought with considerable emotion.

"We've had a few run-ins," Hunter said. "There's maybe a little more involved when I play against Hartford and Boston and Montreal. I used to play them a lot and there's a little bitterness between us still."

Both teams ran into frequent problems with the experimental rule that requires a faceoff outside the zone whenever a player skates through the crease while his team has control of the puck.

"I'm very conscious of it," Hunter said. "I try to stay out until the puck goes in, then I rush the net. You're allowed to go after it and I try to go for it whenever I can."

The Capitals turned in a superb display of penalty killing late in the second period, after Bengt Gustafsson received a major penalty for cutting Dave Tippett with a high stick.

Hartford managed only one shot during the five-minute advantage and Weeks had to make a spectacular stick save to prevent Mike Gartner from connecting shorthanded.

Murray had hoped to reduce his four penalty-killing units to three for the regular season's start on Thursday, but all four pairs (Gartner-Hunter, Peter Sundstrom-Bob Gould, Kelly Miller-Mike Ridley and Dave Christian-Craig Laughlin in Gustafsson's place) proved so successful that any such decision must come later.

"It's pretty hard to make a judgment after the job they all did," Murray said. "I think Hartford had maybe two chances to set up on the power play all night."

Besides the Hunter-Samuelsson matchup, there were two other fights that warranted major penalties. Washington's Paul Cavallini tangled with Shane Churla and Greg Smith, challenged by Tom Martin in front of the Washington net, pounded the Hartford winger with a flurry of rights.

The same teams will meet Saturday in Hartford and it will be the final exhibition for both the Capitals, now 3-2-1, and the Whalers, 2-5-2 after their winless streak reached six games.

Washington will open the regular season next Thursday, playing the Bruins in Boston.