It may come as a surprise to some, but the Washington Capitals' power play is on schedule to shatter the NHL record of 99 extra-man goals shared by the 1982 Pittsburgh Penguins and 1986 Quebec Nordiques.

After getting two power-play scores in seven straight games, the Capitals doubled their pleasure with four in Sunday's 10-3 rout of the Los Angeles Kings. That brought the total to 39 in 26 games, which projects to 120 over the full season.

"It's good to get the boos out and it's good to get goals," said winger Mike Gartner, who certainly heard the boos as recently as Friday at Capital Centre. "The way we play and the way they're calling the games, we get a lot of power plays. We're working hard on the power play and we're finally making other teams pay for their mistakes."

The Capitals rank fourth in power-play production, but they have received so many chances (158) that on a percentage basis they are fifth at 24.7 percent. Tonight's Capital Centre visitors, the Calgary Flames, have clicked 33 times in 121 opportunities for 27.3 percent.

The Winnipeg Jets are the percentage leaders at 27.6, with 42 goals in 152 chances. The New York Rangers, with at least one extra-man goal in 24 of their 26 games, have scored 45 of their 98 goals on the power play, for the highest seasonal projection, 138.

The Capitals' success has come with the emergence of Kevin Hatcher as a fourth point man and the solid play of two units up front -- Dale Hunter, Bengt Gustafsson and Gartner; Mike Ridley, Michal Pivonka and Dave Christian.

"The big thing is that we have a veteran enough hockey team in an area where confidence is such a big factor," said Coach Bryan Murray. "We know now that we may have trouble on one part of a power play, but one of the two units will get some good chances. Kevin is playing well at the point, so we are able to go with four there, and we have guys going to the net.

"We have spent more time on it this year. Power plays are made up of talented people and if you stick to the same guys and give them time in practice to work together, you ought to have some success."

Ridley has produced 10 of his 12 goals on the power play and Murray said, "Mike has quick hands. He's a good stickhandler and he has the ability to hold onto the puck. So much of the power play involves holding onto the puck and looking for an opening."

Although some fans scream "shoot, shoot" as soon as someone gets the puck across the blueline, haste usually creates nothing but a blocked or missed shot. In each case, the result can be a shorthanded breakaway.

Confidence is the key to exercising patience and Christian said, "We're getting on the puck, creating traffic at the net and taking the shot when it's there. The big thing is that the puck is going in. When you score some goals, it's contagious. You get on a roll and it keeps building."

Point man Scott Stevens said, "We have so many more guys who can play the power play. Before, the same guys were out there sometimes for two full minutes. This way we put our best power play against their best penalty killers and we wear them down.

"Our second unit is almost as good, so when they go against the second best penalty killers, we get some good pressure. Each group is pushing each other, in a good way, so it's like a contest out there, but one that helps the team."

Capitals Notes:

Hospital tests scheduled yesterday for defenseman Rod Langway were postponed. "I think the plan is to start me on some rehab tomorrow and if I can't do it, they'll try something else," Langway said. "It will come down to how much pain I can tolerate, whether the area {lower back} that's been bothering me is any better or just the same.". . . Defenseman Greg Smith will learn this morning whether he can play tonight. Smith, struck in the throat Tuesday by the stick of Edmonton's Norm Lacombe, still has difficulty talking. . . Left wing David Jensen returned yesterday from 2 1/2 weeks in Binghamton. A decision on his future is due today, with the likelihood that he will be farmed out once more. Jensen cleared NHL waivers last week. . . Right wing Kelly Miller was "fine" yesterday after "seeing stars" when struck on the head by a puck Sunday. . . Brad McCrimmon, the defenseman Calgary obtained from Philadelphia, has a plus-17 rating. Last year, as a partner for the Flyers' Mark Howe, McCrimmon finished at plus-45. Howe, who was at plus-57 a year ago, is currently minus-5.

Maple Leafs Win, 5-4

United Press International

TORONTO, Dec. 7 -- Russ Courtnall scored a power-play goal at 2:21 of overtime tonight to give the Toronto Maple Leafs a 5-4 victory over the Detroit Red Wings.

With Detroit's Doug Houda in the penalty box, Courtnall took a pass from Todd Gill and shot the puck through a scramble in front of the Detroit net. The goal completed Toronto's comeback from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits. Miroslav Frycer added two goals for the Maple Leafs.

Frycer had tied the score, 4-4, at 8:11 of the third. He picked up the puck while circling out of the Detroit end and fired in a 20-footer.