INGLEWOOD, CALIF., FEB. 18 -- Someone call AAA. The Washington Capitals' three-game road trip was a complete wreck..

The Los Angeles Kings put the final dent in the malfunctioning buggy that is the Capitals, handing them a 5-2 loss this afternoon before 16,005 at The Great Western Forum.

The Capitals played a fine third period. They could have used that Saturday night when they coughed up a 2-0 lead and lost to Vancouver, 4-2. Today, it meant nothing because the game was over by the first intermission. The Capitals, down 1-0, gave up two shorthanded goals during a five-minute power play and trailed by three at the first break.

"The five-minute power play might have been the worst thing that could have happened to us," said Coach Terry Murray, whose power-play unit has four goals in its last 63 attempts.

The loss was the third straight for the Capitals, who began this cross-continent journey on a three-game winning streak. Kelly Miller scored both Washington goals today, but his face was the victim of Bob Halkidis's high-stick in the first period.

The Kings' Tomas Sandstrom didn't play because of a sore ankle, so Bob Kudelski filled in as the right wing on Wayne Gretzky's line and responded with two goals. Dave Taylor, Tony Granato and Gretzky had the others for Los Angeles.

The Great One has only been pretty good of late. Though he leads the NHL in scoring by a wide margin, Gretzky had gone seven games without a goal. That might not seem like much, but it was for Gretzky. The longest dry streak in his career was a nine-game run in 1985-86. And he almost went an eighth game, for his goal was into an empty net with 27 seconds left .

"It was nice to get one," Gretzky said without much enthusiasm. "Over the last four games, I felt like I wasn't contributing."

The Capitals would dearly love to have him on his bad days. They were thwarted by Kings goalie Kelly Hrudey several times, but they missed wide just as often. Called for offside twice in the first 20 seconds of the game, the Capitals were of sync from the start.

They had two power plays in the first eight minutes. On the first, they looked like a team pressing. Mike Ridley -- who is one of the few Capitals playing well -- made two fakes, but had the puck poked away on a third attempt and got no shot.

"We're not letting it flow," Murray said.

Taylor beat Capitals goalie Don Beaupre, on a shot Beaupre might like a second look at, for a 1-0 lead with 8:21 left in the first period.

"I had it lined up and it dropped about a foot and went under my glove," Beaupre said.

With 7:02 left, Halkidis took some skin off Miller's face and the Capitals had a great chance to make a move. But they didn't take it.

On a three-on-two, John McIntyre fed Kudelski, who beat Beaupre for a 2-0 lead with 3:36 left in the period. Still on the power play, Mikhail Tatarinov tried a spin move that didn't work and got him caught down low. The result was Gretzky and Granato on a two-on-one with Granato finishing for a 3-0 lead. Another result was that Tatarinov was benched in the third period.

"It wasn't there," Murray said of Tatarinov's play. "Trying a spin-o-rama against the best player in hockey, you've got to have a little more respect than that because he'll make that play."

With 9:57 left in the second, Hrudey stopped Miller's shot, but Tim Bergland crashed the net and the loose puck trickled in, cutting the deficit to 3-1. But just 37 seconds before intermission, Kudelski finished another rush with his second goal of the game.

Miller scored off a Kevin Hatcher rebound just 18 seconds into the third period, but the Capitals couldn't get any more. Dino Ciccarelli missed wide a few seconds later. Al Iafrate missed high from the slot midway through the period.

"I've got the right person in the right position at the right time," Murray said. "But we don't get the shot on net."

Capitals Notes:

Left wing Dimitri Khristich did not play because of a hip-pointer he suffered Saturday in Vancouver. Alfie Turcotte took his place in the lineup. . . .

Islanders center Pat LaFontaine said again in New York that he wants to be traded and dismissed General Manager Bill Torrey's suggestion on Saturday that LaFontaine was getting bad advice from agent Don Meehan. If you're thinking LaFontaine would look great in a Capitals uniform, you're right. But trades within the Patrick Division are infrequent.

"Obviously, there is a lot of interest in Pat LaFontaine but Mr. Torrey has never mentioned that he would be willing to trade him to me," Capitals General Manager David Poile said.