MONTREAL, DEC. 23 -- Bengt Gustafsson scored two first-period goals against the Montreal Canadiens tonight and the Washington Capitals tried to make them stand up for another improbable victory. They didn't quite make it, but the way things developed, the Capitals were delighted to settle for a 2-2 overtime tie.

The Canadiens fired 16 shots at goalie Pete Peeters in the third period and caught up on goals by Larry Robinson and Stephane Richer.

With six seconds left in regulation time, the Capitals were detected with an extra skater on the ice. Then, 45 seconds into the five-minute overtime period, Scott Stevens hooked down Robinson to prevent a breakaway.

Thanks to three big saves by Peeters, some superb penalty-killing by Gustafsson and a little bit of luck, Washington skated off 69 seconds of one of hockey's rarest items, a two-man shortage in overtime.

The tie extended the Capitals' unbeaten streak to four games and lifted them within one point of fourth-place Pittsburgh in the tightening Patrick Division race.

"We have to be pretty happy with the point," Peeters said. "We played back-to-back games, we faced a lot of shots {42 to Washington's 20} and we seemed to be spending most of our time killing penalties, with five-on-threes twice. It took a lot away from our flow."

Dave Christian found himself skating with the three-man checking line as the third period wound down, and referee Dan Marouelli noticed, too. It was not the best time for a penalty and things quickly got worse for Washington.

In the first minute of the extra period, Petr Svoboda fired a headman pass to Robinson, who had a certain breakaway beckoning until Stevens hauled him down from behind. The Canadiens wanted a penalty shot, but Marouelli declined to satisfy them.

"We were caught in a change and I was between {Claude} Lemieux and Robinson," Stevens said. "Svoboda could have passed to either one. Robinson made a great play catching the pass on his backhand and I had to take him down. It was a penalty, but I didn't think he had control long enough to get a penalty shot."

"I was in alone and I thought I'd get a penalty shot," Robinson said. "But we had a five-on-three, anyway, and we still should have scored. Pete was hot tonight. He really played well."

Peeters was sensational during the shortage, as was Gustafsson. Richer missed the net after taking a carom and the Capitals survived.

"It was a tough game and it takes a lot out of you when you're two men short at the finish," Gustafsson said. "But with time running out, you just do whatever you can and you don't think about anything else."

During the bad times that preceded the current streak, the Capitals often complained about bad bounces. For much of this game, they benefited from the luck of the puck's roll.

Gustafsson opened the scoring on a shorthanded goal. After Patrick Roy blocked his shot on a three-on-one, Gustafsson retrieved the puck behind the goal line. His centering pass struck Richer's stick and the puck wound up in the crease, where Roy was unable to locate it. Gustafsson darted out from behind and poked it in.

Gustafsson, who had gone eight games without a goal, made it 2-0 on an even stranger score. Michal Pivonka's shot from the left-wing corner landed on top of the net and the puck fell on the other side. It struck the skate of Montreal's Bobby Smith before Gustafsson beat Svoboda to it and slapped it past Roy.

"The puck is starting to bounce our way," Gustafsson said. "It's about time."

Two apparent dives, by Brian Skrudland and Claude Lemieux, were given high marks by Marouelli, leaving Washington two men short for 54 seconds late in the first period. Peeters made a superb save on Smith and foiled Ryan Walter's rebound to withstand the shortage.

Outshot, 10-4, in the second period, the Capitals hung on behind some superb stops by Peeters, who heard the familiar "Peeeeet" from the band of Washington Capitals Fan Clubbers high in the blue seats. There was another fortunate bounce, too, as Mats Naslund rattled a post after cutting past Stevens.

The Canadiens got on the board with 13:38 left in regulation, as Robinson netted a power-play 50-footer with Walter screening Peeters. The goal, with Dale Hunter off for tripping, ended a string of 21 successful penalty kills by Washington.

The Capitals had a two-man advantage for 29 seconds, without controlling the puck in the Montreal zone, before the Canadiens tied it with 8:16 left.

Shayne Corson on the left wing seemed headed around the net, but he stopped short of the goal line and whipped a pass to Richer, unguarded in front for the tying score.

Flyers 5, North Stars 3: In Philadelphia, Dave Poulin scored two goals to help the Flyers run their unbeaten streak to 13 games (11-0-2), a season's best in the NHL. Minnesota is on a seven-game winless streak (0-6-1).

Devils 6, Penguins 2: Aaron Broten and Brendan Shanahan scored in the second period to start a streak of five straight New Jersey goals in Pittsburgh.

Sabres 5, Red Wings 2: Buffalo's Mark Napier had a goal and an assist, reaching 500 career points, in the victory at Detroit. Napier's milestone point came 3:51, a setup for rookie Pierre Turgeon's goal that broke a 1-1 tie and put the Sabres ahead to stay.

Blackhawks 7, Islanders 5: With the defeat in Chicago, the New York club fell out of first place in the Patrick Division and into a tie with New Jersey, a point behind the Flyers.

Maple Leafs 5, Blues 1: In St. Louis, Dan Daoust scored unassisted in each of the first two periods and Gary Leeman also had two goals as Toronto ended the Blues' unbeaten streak at seven.

Canucks 5, Kings 1: In Vancouver, Rich Sutter, John LeBlanc and Doug Wickenheiser each collected a goal and an assist as the Canucks won.