The circumstances were entirely different from the teams' last meeting -- titles, trophies and money were on the line then. Last night's contest between the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins, who were the Wales Conference finalists last season, was simply an exhibition game.

But the Capitals had been winless in their first five tries this season, so they took what they could get, which was a 6-3 victory over the Bruins in front of 9,210 at Capital Centre.

The Bruins left enough of their key players at home that Al Pedersen wore the "C" as acting captain. Defenseman Ray Bourque, who normally has that distinction, Cam Neely, Dave Christian, Dave Poulin, Glen Wesley, Craig Janney and goalie Andy Moog were among the Bruins regulars that had the night off.

For the Capitals, regulars Dale Hunter, John Druce and Alan May were allowed a night's rest, but most of the rest were in the lineup.

The game wasn't two minutes old when the Capitals had a five-on-three power play. Dino Ciccarelli converted Peter Zezel's goal-mouth pass for a 1-0 lead with 1:53 gone.

The Capitals spent much of the first 10 minutes killing penalties. They were successful until former Capital Bobby Carpenter set up John Byce for a goal and a 1-1 tie with 9:54 left.

Capitals left wing Kelly Miller was injured with about a minute left in the first period, when he banged knees with a Bruin along the left boards. The collision appeared to be frighteningly similar to those that sidelined Kevin Hatcher and Ciccarelli in the playoffs last spring.

However, if the early diagnosis proves correct, it won't be as bad. A team spokesman said Miller had a slight knee sprain but likely would be able to play in the next exhibition game, Wednesday against Buffalo in Albany, N.Y.

"A couple of days with ice and he'll be okay," Capitals Coach Terry Murray said.

Mike Ridley poked in a feed from Steve Leach to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead early in the second period, but the Bruins tied the score at 2 when Nevin Markwart wheeled and fired a shot past Mike Liut from about 10 feet.

The Bruins took their only lead with help from the Capitals. Ralph Barahona's wrist shot hit the post and the Capitals' Michal Pivonka accidentally knocked it in for a 3-2 Boston lead with 10:09 left in the second period.

As planned, Jim Hrivnak relieved Liut for the Capitals and Matt DelGuidice replaced Reggie Lemelin in goal for the Bruins.

DelGuidice did not fair as well as Lemelin. Tim Bergland scored with 3:55 left in the second period and then Ciccarelli -- off a nice setup by Pivonka -- blasted a slap shot into the far corner for a 4-3 lead. Steve Maltais, who is still hoping to win a job at left wing, then scored for a 5-3 lead.

"I was happy to see {Ciccarelli} come back into the building and score a couple of goals," Murray said. "He will have to do that this season."

Ciccarelli received an ovation after his second goal. "Dino needs that," Murray said. "He feeds off emotion and the crowd."

Capitals Notes: General Manager David Poile reported no discussions and, thus, no progress regarding holdout defenseman Kevin Hatcher and unsigned free agent goalie Don Beaupre.