HARTFORD, OCT. 3 -- The Washington Capitals closed out their exhibition campaign on two sour notes tonight.

Two goals ahead after 24 minutes, the Capitals were outplayed the rest of the way by the Hartford Whalers and dropped a 4-3 decision.

Watching the game from the stands and later hobbling away on crutches was center Bob Gould. X-rays taken here today revealed he suffered a hairline fracture of the right foot during Friday's 2-0 victory over the Whalers at Lake Placid, N.Y.

"It was a freak thing," Gould said. "Kelly Miller made a pass to Peter {Sundstrom} and it caught me on the side of the foot. You get hit there lots of times and nothing happens. This time I was unlucky."

Gould is likely to miss the first three games of the regular season, beginning with Thursday's opener at Boston. Craig Laughlin and Mike Ridley took turns in Gould's place on the checking line tonight.

Paul MacDermid netted the winner for the Whalers tonight on a weird shot with 3:38 left in regulation. Checked off balance by Scott Stevens in the left-wing circle, MacDermid lifted the puck high into the far side of the net as he fell to the ice.

A power-play goal by Michal Pivonka, a shorthanded score by Mike Gartner and an even-strength goal by Ed Kastelic lifted Washington into a 3-1 lead four minutes into the second period. The rest of the way, the Whalers enjoyed a 25-11 margin in shots.

Paul Lawless jammed in a rebound of a Ron Francis shot to close to 3-2 in the second period, then the Whalers scored twice on goaltender Pete Peeters in the third period while outshooting Washington, 11-4.

Sylvain Turgeon tied it 36 seconds after the intermission, converting Dean Evason's pass from behind the Washington net. Evason had set up a shorthanded goal by Stewart Gavin for Hartford's first score.

"They came at us pretty good and their defense stood up and turned the puck over a lot," said Washington Coach Bryan Murray. "They put the stick on the first guy, took away our chance to forecheck and generally took control."

The Whalers had flown here after Friday's game, while the Capitals endured a five-hour bus ride today. That appeared to be a factor in the loss of the sharpness the Capitals displayed in Lake Placid.

Washington had a three-game winning streak ended and closed its exhibition campaign with a 3-3-1 record. Hartford finished at 3-5-2.

"We haven't been playing as well as we can the whole preseason," Evason said. "As a group, we decided we'd like to get something going tonight, something to carry into the season. Fortunately, it worked out."

Hartford center Doug Jarvis said he would not comment about being unprotected for Monday's waiver draft despite his 962-game streak.