VANCOUVER, OCT. 27 -- Winning atones for a lot of sins. So it was tonight for the Washington Capitals, who turned in their poorest effort of the season and still managed to defeat the Vancouver Canucks, 3-2.

Outplayed most of the way and outshot, 33-18, the Capitals nevertheless managed to build a 3-0 lead over the first 38 minutes on goals by Peter Sundstrom, Greg Adams and Mike Ridley.

Meanwhile, goaltender Pete Peeters blocked the first 21 shots in his first start since Oct. 11.

However, Peeters was struck on the right side by Doug Lidster's slap shot and, after giving up a goal when he tried to continue, was taken to a hospital at the end of the second period for X-rays of a possible broken rib.

Clint Malarchuk relieved and had several big saves in a third-period total of eight to preserve the victory.

Terry Murray earned his first NHL coaching victory while brother Bryan watched from the stands, serving the first of his three-game suspension.

"The home team was pumped up and really got on us, but Pete Peeters played really well, with some tremendous saves in the second period," Terry Murray said. "Then Malarchuk comes in in the third period and we gave up quality chances, but he hung in there.

"It wasn't a good team effort. It was a goaltender win and you have to get six or seven of those a year."

Of his emergency performance, Malarchuk said, "It was tough. If the game wasn't so close, it would be different. When you come in cold, with no warmup and just off a long flight, you've got problems. That's why it's so important to stay mentally sharp during the game. I worked on my concentration, got a couple of saves and got into the game."

The triumph put Washington in a tie for first place in the Patrick Division with the New Jersey Devils, one point ahead of the New York Rangers and the New York Islanders.

The Capitals grabbed a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Sundstrom and Adams. However, the play on both sides was ragged. The Capitals, who managed only five shots on goal, appeared to be suffering from jet lag. The Canucks, who tested Peeters nine times, were just suffering.

Washington was unable to put a shot on goal during either of two power plays. The Canucks were only marginally better and it was during a penalty to Adams that Sundstrom netted a shorthanded goal at 8:34.

Sundstrom entered the Canucks' zone in a relatively harmless one-on-two situation. But both point men, Doug Lidster and Steve Tambellini, hesitated to go after Sundstrom and the Swede fired a backhander from the right-wing circle that went past goalie Kirk McLean on the far side.

Adams' goal came at 19:37, after the crowd had greeted the announcement that one minute remained in the period with derisive cheers. Vancouver's Randy Boyd blocked a shot by Bob Gould and the puck rebounded to Adams, who fired it over McLean's left shoulder.

Gould was making his first appearance of the regular season, after sustaining a hairline fracture of his right foot Oct. 2. He centered the fourth line with Adams and Craig Laughlin. Michal Pivonka, idled for a week by a sprained wrist, returned as the left wing for Bengt Gustafsson and Dave Christian. Lou Franceschetti skated with Dale Hunter and Mike Gartner.

Peeters, making his second start of the season and first in 16 days, proved alert on the few tough chances Vancouver presented. He made good saves on Lidster and Craig Coxe while Sundstrom served an interference penalty.

The Canucks picked up their play considerably in the second period and with persistent forechecking kept the Capitals pinned in their own end much of the time. But Vancouver wound up with little to show for its effort other than a 14-5 shot margin as Washington carried a 3-1 lead to the dressing room.

A power-play goal by Mike Ridley extended the Capitals' lead to 3-0 at 12:58, with Michel Petit off for hooking Christian. Rod Langway's drive from the left point struck a Vancouver defender and caromed onto Ridley's stick at the right post for a tapin.

It was the Capitals' first successful power play in 21 attempts and their first shot on goal in four power plays tonight.

Peeters was shaken up when a slap shot by Lidster struck him in the right side. He remained in the game, but soon after was beaten by Rich Sutter. Peeters made the initial save after Sutter came off the bench, took Barry Pederson's pass and raced in on the left wing. However, Sutter was unchallenged as he netted the rebound at 18:53.

The Canucks were a second late on another scoring bid. Vancouver's Greg Adams put a rebound of Tony Tanti's shot past Peeters just after the buzzer ended the period.

Washington's Dale Hunter was ejected early in the period as the third man in what essentially was a three-man altercation. Vancouver's Dave Richter slashed Franceschetti. Franceschetti and Hunter then yelled at Richter and the verbal turned physical.

Linesman Jim Christison was in the middle when Richter reached over him and decked Franceschetti with a solid left. When Richter jumped on Franceschetti, Hunter dove in and pulled him off. Richter also was chased.

Malarchuk replaced Peeters at the start of the third period and his first save was a big one, gloving a low drive from the slot by Tambellini.

After Sundstrom received a questionable roughing penalty, the Canucks made good on a power play for the first time in six chances. Malarchuk made a sensational save on Adams, but Dave Lowry retrieved the puck behind the goal line and fed Tambellini in the left-wing circle. This time Tambellini lined it under Malarchuk's glove.

Devils 4, Flyers 0:

Aaron Broten, Pat Verbeek and Patrik Sundstrom scored in a 2:55 span in the second period and goaltender Alain Chevrier earned his first NHL shutout last night as New Jersey defeated Philadelphia last night in East Rutherford, N.J.

Chevrier stopped 26 shots in the Devils' franchise-record fifth straight home victory, which extended the Flyers' winless streak to four.

With a 6-3 record, New Jersey is off to its best start ever.

The Devils killed off eight power plays in the first two periods and nine overall, surviving one stretch late in the first period and early in the second during which they were penalized three times and played shorthanded for 4:49.

Nordiques 5, Oilers 0:

Mario Gosselin made 21 saves, Peter Stastny scored one goal and set up another and Quebec defeated Edmonton in Quebec City.

The Oilers were directed by assistant coach John Muckler because Coach Glen Sather was in Toronto negotiating with holdout defenseman Paul Coffey.

Penguins 4, Kings 4:

Dave Taylor scored with 7:09 remaining in the third period to finish Los Angeles' three-goal comeback and the Kings and Penguins ended tied in Pittsburgh.

Islanders 4, Blackhawks 4:

At Uniondale, N.Y., Rich Kromm scored with 5:23 remaining in regulation to give New York a tie against Chicago.

Kromm took a pass from Brent Sutter in front and put the puck between goalie Bob Mason's legs.

North Stars 5, Blues 3:

Brian Bellows' goal with 9:31 remaining sparked Minnesota to the victory in St. Louis.