Bob Gould, who had scored one goal in his previous 14 games, netted two in 16 seconds last night to send the Washington Capitals winging to a 5-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils.

It was the Capitals' eighth success in nine games and maintained an incredible Capital Centre jinx over the Devils, winless in 20 visits here since the franchise moved to New Jersey in 1982.

The Devils came out hitting last night, controlled play during a scoreless first period and had triumphant visions dancing in their heads until Gould suddenly heated up.

First, he took advantage of goaltender Bob Sauve's wanderings to snap the tie. Sauve played the puck in the corner at his left, couldn't clear it and instead put it on Gould's stick for a drive into the vacated net.

"Sauve only had one way to go and I went to the boards to cut it off," Gould said. "It wasn't a great shot, because I missed part of the puck, but I knew the net was open. You don't get many like that."

Sixteen seconds later, Gould was tied up in front by defender Randy Velischek when Kevin Hatcher fired a shot from the right point. Sauve blocked it, but the rebound struck Gould's skate and caromed over the line.

"When Kevin let the shot go, I went to the net," Gould said. "It hit something -- the goalie I guess -- and hit my skate. My stick was tied up with him {Velischek} and I couldn't do much."

The two goals, which brought Gould's season total to 10, put the Capitals ahead to stay, although the Devils battled back to 2-1 and 3-2 before falling out of sight.

Mike Gartner recorded his 40th goal and Peter Sundstrom and Bengt Gustafsson added the clinchers. It was the fifth time in nine NHL seasons that Gartner hit 40 and he quipped, "Wait till I hit my prime in about five years."

Gould said, "You always want to contribute, whether it's killing penalties or scoring goals. This has been a frustrating year right from the start {he suffered a broken foot in an exhibition and missed the first eight games} and I certainly haven't done much offensively. Tonight, it was good to help out.

"The game was pretty tight right then and my goals gave us some breathing room. They weren't great goals, they were mostly mistakes by them, but we needed them. They had the edge in play until we took the lead."

Gould's first three NHL goals constituted his only hat trick, playing for Calgary against St. Louis in 1981, before he was traded to Washington. He tried valiantly to add another last night, but didn't make it.

Sauve made a big stop on him later in the second period, after Gould beat defender Ken Daneyko down the right side. In the third period, after he was forced to leave for a while to have his skates sharpened, Gould found himself one on one against defender Andy Brickley, with Sauve off the ice for a sixth skater. Gould's shot went wide.

"I started getting cement in my hands," Gould said. "I skated in as close as I could, but I was getting panicky and I missed it. You always like to get a hat trick, but it's no big deal. We won and I contributed and that's just great."

Coach Bryan Murray was pleased to see Gould join the growing list of offensive contributors for a team that had trouble scoring until the All-Star break. But he was less pleased with a minus-one power play that failed five times and allowed a shorthanded goal.

"It's good for him," Murray said. "He works hard for us, but he's had a tough year offensively. We played tentative early and they played hard and took away our breakout. We kept the game close for them at times, with that shorthanded goal and the last goal, which was so-so."

Some sharp passing led to New Jersey's first goal, by Patrik Sundstrom less than a minute after Gould's second score. It ended goalie Clint Malarchuk's latest shutout streak at 86 minutes 20 seconds.

Gartner's goal-mouth conversion of Mike Ridley's pass made it 3-1, but Mark Johnson netted the Devils' 15th shorthanded goal to close the gap again.

Peter Sundstrom, Patrik's twin brother, recorded his first goal since Jan. 13 to make it 4-2 before the second period ended. It was the first time Peter had scored against the Devils this year, after Patrik put in three against the Capitals.

Gustafsson boosted the margin to 5-2 with 4:15 remaining, taking Michal Pivonka's pass off the right-wing boards behind defenders Craig Wolanin and Joe Cirella, then fooling Sauve on a breakaway.

Aaron Broten beat Malarchuk with a short-side drive from the top of the left-wing circle to complete the scoring. It was the only goal produced by the Devils' top line of Broten, Kirk Muller and Pat Verbeek, who totaled seven in Sunday's 8-6 victory over Minnesota.

The same teams will meet again tonight at the Meadowlands and the Devils' principal task was putting this disappointing result behind them.

Sauve may not be in the net tonight, though. There is reason to believe the Devils will start Canadian Olympian Sean Burke. Malarchuk is questionable, too. He said he was feeling a bit sick after the game and, with Pete Peeters nursing a bruised foot, Alain Raymond could join Burke in a rare March matchup of goalies making their first NHL starts.

In other games, Mario Lemieux scored twice for a team-record 56 goals as the Pittsburgh Penguins won in Minnesota, 8-3; Denis Potvin and Tomas Jonsson scored third-period goals as the host New York Islanders beat the St. Louis Blues, 2-0; the Detroit Red Wings shut out the visiting Buffalo Sabres, 4-0; the Winnipeg Jets beat the visiting Hartford Whalers, 6-2, and the Philadelphia Flyers won in Vancouver, 7-3.