MONTREAL, OCT. 15 -- Line combinations have never been sacrosanct with Terry Murray, so with his team wallowing a bit, he switched them up completely tonight against the Montreal Canadiens.

"There was no real magic there," Murray said before the game.

And even with Don Beaupre in goal for the first time this season, there wasn't much during or afterward either, as the Canadiens beat the Capitals, 3-1, in front of 16,382 at The Forum.

The Capitals have lost two in a row and will leave Tuesday for New Jersey with a 2-4 record. In the losses, the Capitals have been victimized by good and great plays by opponents and by mistakes.

"It wasn't the glaring mistakes, it was the little things," Murray said. On the first Montreal goal, "we had control three times and we don't get it out."

Guy Carbonneau scored that first one for Montreal and Mike McPhee netted the second.

After Dale Hunter scored for the Capitals in the third period, Brian Skrudland scored to seal the Canadiens' second straight victory..

Like the Capitals, the Canadiens have a different look this season. Though not all were in the lineup tonight, there are seven new members of the team, including center Denis Savard. A Montreal native, Savard came home in the trade that sent defenseman Chris Chelios and a 1991 second-round draft choice to Chicago.

The Capitals' Kevin Hatcher wasn't the only holdout this season. Canadiens goalie Brian Hayward signed a new contract, but left the team Oct. 8 because Coach Pat Burns would not promise him 40 games. Burns, who also has two-time Vezina Trophy winner Patrick Roy, didn't want Hayward back once he left. Montreal General Manager Serge Savard and Hayward's agent, Don Meehan, have tried to work out a trade to no avail. Hayward decided today he wanted to come back, but the Canadiens don't want him.

"You only walk out on me once," Burns said this morning.

But league rules say if a player under contract wants to return, he must be paid.

"So now, the only difference is that he is sitting at home and being paid," Serge Savard said tonight.

The Capitals' problems these days are confined mostly to the ice -- but that's plenty.

In juggling his lines, Murray did not have any four the same as those that played in Saturday night's loss to the Rangers. One line (Dave Tippett between Kelly Miller and John Druce) was assembled simply to counter the Canadiens' top line of Savard, Stephane Richer and Shayne Corson.

Though Burns later changed his combinations, that group didn't hurt the Capitals in the first period. It was the Canadiens' checking line that gave them a 1-0 lead.

After the Capitals failed to clear the zone, Brent Gilchrist fed Mike Keane in the slot. He moved to the right and passed back across the slot to Carbonneau, who "swatted" the puck. It hit somebody and bounced over a sprawled Beaupre for a goal 2:09 before intermission.

Beaupre stopped Richer from close range in the second period. Bob Rouse rode Skrudland off the puck but no Capital collected it behind the net. The Canadiens did, and moved it around to defenseman Eric Desjardins at the point. With plenty of room, he fired a slap shot. Rouse had McPhee covered at the goal mouth, but not enough to prevent him from deflecting the low shot high over Beaupre's glove for a 2-0 lead with 4:35 gone in the second period.

Roy, who has started all six games this year, had his shutout ruined when Druce snapped a shot toward the net that bounced in off the back of Hunter. That goal cut the deficit to 2-1 with 14:21 left, but that was all Roy yielded.

"When he sees everything like that," Tippett said, "he's a very tough player to beat."

The Capitals' thrill was fleeting. Hatcher couldn't clear the defensive zone and a few moments later Russ Courtnall fed Skrudland in front of the goal. He one-timed the shot past Beaupre.

"That's the difference between winning and losing," Rouse said of the errors. "We made them. I guess we made three. Or more because Donnie saved us on a few. But we didn't capitalize on their mistakes."