MONTREAL, OCT. 15 -- Don Beaupre's unusually long offseason officially ended tonight as he played his first game in goal for the Washington Capitals against the Montreal Canadiens at The Forum, and lost, 3-1.

Because of contract negotiations, Beaupre didn't arrive in camp until Oct. 3 -- two days before the opener. He dressed as the backup for the first three games, then played in two minor league games Friday and Saturday for Baltimore. The Skipjacks won, 5-2, and, 7-1, over Fredrickton.

"I never felt bad, but I'm more confident after playing a game," Beaupre said this morning. Skipjacks Start 3-0

The Skipjacks are off to a 3-0 start and Steve Maltais was named the American Hockey League player of the week. He had four goals and an assist in the three games and was called up to the Capitals Sunday. Maltais's parents have lived in the Montreal area for the past three years.

"I was pretty surprised," Maltais said. "I was always a big Montreal fan growing up."

All has not been rosy for the Skipjacks. Though he played in both weekend games, Kent Paynter injured his wrist in Friday's pregame skate when he got into a fight with teammate goalie Jim Hrivnak.Zezel, Leach Stay Home

Center Peter Zezel, who sprained his ankle in Saturday's 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers, did not come to Montreal. He was to receive treatment today in Baltimore and then join the Capitals in New Jersey Wednesday. The same plan applied to right wing Steve Leach, who missed the previous two games with a concussion. . . .

Ryan Walter, who played four seasons in Washington before going to Montreal in the Rod Langway trade, played his first game of the season Saturday in Hartford. On the first shift, Walter fractured his wrist. He will be out eight weeks.