The Washington Capitals entered last night's game with the Dallas Stars on a three-game winning steak, using a strong first period to propel them. The Capitals became a better team since they started winning periods -- that is, emerging from each 20-minute segment with the score tied or with a lead.

They reverted to their old ways at MCI Center last night, however, surrendering two quick goals to the Stars and falling behind 2-0 at the first intermission. Early this season the club made a habit of giving away the first period and never recovering.

The Capitals appeared to have curbed that trend and were extending their early-game success into the latter stages. Washington yielded the opening goal in nine of its first 12 games, going 5-6-1 in that span, but scored first in all three games during its recent 3-0 run. The Capitals gave up just one first-period goal in those three games, after getting outscored 12-6 in the first period in their first 12 games.

"During the 10-game stretch when we struggled we gave up it seemed like a goal every period," Coach Bruce Cassidy said, "And we couldn't shut teams down when we had to, especially out of the gate. . . . In the first period, if the other team comes out with a zero you're in the game; no matter how good or bad you may have played, you're in the game."

The Capitals had played 11 periods of hockey over the three games prior to last night -- including overtime -- and were outscored in only two of those periods. Washington went the first 13 games of the season without holding an opponent scoreless through two periods, but had done so for two straight games before last night's troublesome first period.

Miller, Henry Make Appearances

With enforcer Stephen Peat out with a hand injury, Cassidy inserted winger Kip Miller into the lineup. Miller was scratched from the previous game after playing 14 straight games. Forward-defenseman Alex Henry, whose minor league conditioning stint was curtailed by Peat's injury, made his second appearance for the team and first of his professional career as a forward. Defenseman Brendan Witt missed his second straight game with a shoulder sprain but is expected to return to the lineup this weekend. Forward Glen Metropolit was a healthy scratch.