Terry Murray slammed the dressing room door with such force he almost fell over. It was one of the few good efforts put forth by a Washington Capital yesterday afternoon.

Playing like the worst team in the NHL, the Capitals lost to the worst team in the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-2, at Capital Centre.

"He's had a few tantrums lately," said goalie Don Beaupre. "But then we deserve it. We haven't played with a lot of enthusiasm of late, and he gets frustrated just like the players get frustrated."

The 14,753 on hand saw the Capitals' winless streak extended to five games. Thursday's 3-3 tie in St. Louis has been the only break in their ugly run. And this installment was no work of art. By the time public address man Marv Brooks announced that a minute remained in the game, the few fans still in their seats cheered. A minute later, they booed.

"This was the worst performance since I've been here," said Murray, who is three weeks shy of his first anniversary as coach. "This was an embarrassment. Some guys think they are a little too big for this game, the lack of poise and control they showed. That goes for everybody, not just one or two guys.

"Our power play had a chance to win the game and it was absolutely not effective whatsoever. When you start playing one-on-one in power-play situations, you'll never be effective. There are too many guys not pulling their load, their share. Maybe the goaltender was the only guy who arrived here" ready to play.

The Capitals never led. It was tied at 2 at the start of the third period, but power-play goals by Rob Ramage and Dave Ellett decided the outcome. Dave Reid's goal with 2:08 left just made it messier for the Capitals.

"We really played disciplined in the third period, as much as we could," said Toronto defenseman Luke Richardson. "Once the first two periods were over, we realized we were burning out the guys. You've got to save something."

And there were plenty of penalties to kill. Referee Dan Marouelli let things go early and then tried to play catch-up the rest of the game. By the end, the Capitals had been called for 14 penalties for 36 minutes, while the Maple Leafs were sent off 15 times for 46 minutes.

Two things have changed drastically this season for the Capitals. They have gone from the bottom of the league to at or near the top in power-play efficiency and fewest penalty minutes. Yesterday, they had a lot of penalites and nothing to show for the power play.

The power-play unit was ranked second overall, but first at home. The penalty killers were second overall and third at home. Yesterday, the power play was zero for eight and the Maple Leafs scored three power-play goals in eight chances. But four of the eight tries came in the third period, when Dale Hunter drew three penalites.

"We've got to get three guys on the loose puck and get shots through the defense," said Michal Pivonka, who was scoreless in the previous six games before getting an assist yesterday.

Veteran Doug Shedden got behind the defense to score a power-play goal for a 1-0 Toronto lead with 10:56 left in the first period. But it lasted only 86 seconds, by which time Bob Joyce had flicked a one-handed shot past Maple Leafs goalie Peter Ing for his second goal of the season. Former Capital Mike Millar fired a slap shot just under the crossbar for a 2-1 lead 17 seconds after Joyce's goal.

It stayed that way until 4:38 remained in the second period. Peter Zezel, who played in his first game since spraining an ankle Oct. 30, fired a slap shot off the post and into the net for his first even-strength goal of the season and a 2-2 tie.

It was starting to look like a second straight overtime game for the Capitals, but they let that slide. With Hunter off, Ramage scored with 8:06 left, and Ellett scored 14 seconds after that, on a shot that clanked in off the post. That made it 4-2. A Mike Lalor turnover led to Reid's goal, which capped the Maple Leafs' second win over the Capitals this season.

The Capitals had been scheduled to practice today, then have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off before playing Pittsburgh here on Wednesday, but Murray canceled practice.

"There is nothing I could achieve by having a practice," Murray said. "I would be knocking my head against the wall."