TORONTO, NOV. 14 -- Thanks to the Washington Capitals, the woeful Toronto Maple Leafs now have a winning streak.

The Capitals skidded to their third straight loss, losing to the Maple Leafs, 5-3, tonight in front of 15,890 at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, have won two in a row to raise their record to 4-17-1.

The Capitals picked up their game a couple of times, but they couldn't sustain the effort and never led. Dave Reid put them on their heels with his fifth shorthanded goal in the first period. Then in the third period, after Washington had closed to 4-3, Reid scored again to seal the victory.

"They just keep bobbling the puck in front of me," Reid said.

Indeed, the Capitals (10-10-0) did that quite a bit. Jim Hrivnak started in goal and occasionally bailed them out, but he was shaky in some situations, too. Mike Liut was inserted to start the third period. He made a couple of good saves, but he had a clear look at Reid's 40-foot slap shot.

"We played spotty," said the Capitals' John Druce. "We played half of the first period, three quarters of the second and only about half of the third. You've got to play 60 minutes all the time."

That number was too much tonight for the Capitals, who had won five in a row before this slide. Kevin Hatcher returned to the lineup and had three assists. Mikhail Tatarinov scored his first NHL goal. That covered the highlights, although Michal Pivonka and Peter Bondra also scored for the Capitals.

Besides Reid, the Maple Leafs scorers were Daniel Marois, Paul Fenton and Vincent Damphousse. Jeff Reese made some great stops for the Maple Leafs.

The Capitals did not have Rod Langway tonight. He spent a second day in Prince George's County Circuit Court, where a judge is hearing the divorce suit brought by his estranged wife, Linda.

"I understand the timetable is such that he will be available on Friday," Capitals General Manager David Poile said.

The schedule gives the Capitals today off after flying home. They will play the Chicago Blackhawks Friday night at Capital Centre, and then will meet the Whalers in Hartford Saturday before heading to Detroit.

Referee Don Koharski was not well tonight. Suffering from the flu, he did not return for the start of the second period. Lance Roberts, who was on call and in the building, finished the game.

The Capitals looked sick for much of the night. Hrivnak never seemed to get a feel for how the puck was going to bounce and the troops in front of him looked ragged.

Reid entered the game with a league-high four shorthanded goals. He didn't have to work that hard for the fifth. With Bob Rouse and Tatarinov watching, Bondra tripped over the faceoff circle. Reid picked up the puck, went around Hrivnak and lifted it into the net for a 1-0 lead with 11:13 left in the first period.

That was just the second shot on goal for the Maple Leafs. They earned the next, though. Dave Ellett, in just his second game since being traded here from Winnipeg, fed Marois for a goal just as a penalty to Nick Kypreos expired.

The essence of the Capitals' early troubles was epitomized in one play in the second period. The Capitals had a four-on-one break but got nothing directly off the break as the pile in front blocked the shot eventually taken by Pivonka. The puck bounced to Druce, who was denied by Reese's arm save.

Bondra deflected in Steve Leach's shot to cut the deficit to 2-1 with 7:18 left in the second period, but another breakdown cost the Capitals. The puck bounced through the neutral zone, passing three Capitals. Hrivnak hesitated, which allowed Paul Fenton -- another recent import from Winnipeg -- to collect the puck, avoid Hrivnak's poke check and score.

Dale Hunter was then called for high-sticking and, with just 66 seconds left in the period, Damphousse scored after Hrivnak misjudged the puck coming off the boards.

Thus, the Maple Leafs started the third period with a 4-1 edge. The Capitals started the third with Liut in goal.

The move seemed to help, for the team was a bit more crisp to start the period. Pivonka scored a power play goal on a rebound with 1:17 gone and then Tatarinov blasted a slap shot past Reese.

That made things 4-3 with 13:25 left. But this evening essentially ended as it began. Reid carried the puck just over the Washington blueline and fired a slap shot. Liut saw it, but the puck slid between his legs for a 5-3 score with 7:03 left in the game.

"I think if we played the period and eliminated the first three minutes and the last three minutes, we'd be a pretty good hockey club," Coach Terry Murray said. "Unfortunately, you can't."