There are never good times for injuries, but the Washington Capitals might catch a break with their latest ailment.

Rookie goalie Jim Hrivnak, who had won three straight games, injured his knee in the second period of Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss at Pittsburgh, but walked out of Civic Arena without help. Though the extent of the injury won't be known until he is examined again today, it does not appear serious. Still, even minor knee injuries need a couple of days to heal.

The good news is that Don Beaupre, who has been out since Oct. 30 with a groin pull, probably will be ready to play in the Capitals' next game, Wednesday in New York against the Rangers.

"I've got a couple more days of practice but I should be ready for Wednesday, as long as I don't hurt it again," Beaupre said after practicing with the Baltimore Skipjacks yesterday.

Beaupre has had this injury five times, including twice last season.

"When you're just coming off the injury, you think about it more," he said. "I am going to take a little while longer {than normal} but I want to get back to playing. I just don't want to get back in the first game and hurt it again."

Groin injuries are common among goaltenders: Getting up from the knees quickly and moving laterally are basic activities for a goalie, and the muscles on the inside of the leg are heavily involved.

Beaupre missed training camp in a contract dispute, but both of his victories (2-3 record) are shutouts. Only Chicago's Dominic Hasek, who played one overtime game, has a lower goals-against average (0.92) than Beaupre (1.75).

Hrivnak's injury was part of a disappointing evening for the Capitals, who had a victory and a three-game winning streak disappear in a matter of minutes. Paul Coffey scored late in the third period and Mark Recchi won the game for the Penguins with a goal in overtime. The Capitals, the only team in the league without a tie, are 1-2 in overtime games this season.

Trainer Stan Wong was busy Saturday. Defenseman Mikhail Tatarinov missed the end of Friday's game and was not in uniform Saturday because of lower back pain. He said he is hoping to be ready by Wednesday.

Wing Bob Joyce needed stitches around his right eye after falling and connecting with the stick of Penguins defenseman Zarley Zalapski. "My vision is fine," Joyce said.

John Druce, punched in the face earlier, got the worse of a second exchange with Bryan Trottier. Trying to check Trottier, Druce caught an elbow around the chin and was knocked on his back. Druce said he didn't know if he lost consciousness, but said he was okay after the game.

The Capitals beat the Penguins, 7-3, Friday night. That was their highest goal output of the season.

Saturday night's rematch was closer. Both teams scored their first goals on two-man power plays, and Kevin Hatcher's second goal of the game gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead in the third period.

Mike Liut, who replaced Hrivnak at 13:36 of the second period, has dropped four in row after winning three straight. Like the team, he's been streaky.

"I was just trying to put the puck at the net," said Coffey of his goal from below the faceoff circle with 5:35 left in the third. "It's a little unfair for Liut. He's probably a little cold. Fortunately, it worked for me."

Liut made no excuses.

"I don't know what I did, but it was a just a very bad goal and it cost us the game," he said. "It's almost too bad to even explain."

The infuriating part for the Capitals were two late penalties called by referee Kerry Fraser. The second, on Mike Lalor, came with 44 seconds left in regulation and carried into overtime. Recchi scored with 71 seconds gone in the extra period, and five seconds left in the penalty.

"It makes it tough when you go shorthanded twice in the last three minutes in the other team's building," Coach Terry Murray said.