LANDOVER -- The Hartford Whalers held off several late Washington attacks on goal to turn back the Capitals, 3-2, in a fight-filled game before 15,237 last night at the Capital Centre.
Washington's Dale Hunter failed twice in the final 20 seconds tscore off high-percentage opportunities.
With 20 seconds left, Hunter was free on a breakaway butripped near the blue line, and with five seconds remaining, he had a shot amid a pack of players in front of the net but couldn't get it in.
Dino Ciccarelli had brought the Capitals within a goal of thWhalers with 6:09 left when he re-directed a shot by Rod Langway into the goal, cutting the Whalers' lead to 3-2.
The loss dropped the Capitals into fourth place in the PatricDivision.
The Whalers took a 3-1 lead 23 seconds into the third period, striking on a goal by Bobby Holik.
Holik scored after Todd Krygier and Carey Wilson won the pucbehind the net for Hartford.
The Whalers came out of a penalty- and fight-filled seconperiod with a 2-1 lead, trading goals with Washington in the final minutes.
The Whalers surged ahead, 2-0, at 15:17 of the second period oa Pat Verbeek goal. Verbeek took a pass on the left circle from Krygier and slipped the puck into the goal while each team was down a man.
The Capitals answered at 16:20 with their first goal to reduce thlead to 2-1. Kevin Hatcher scored for the home team, sliding in a rebound of a missed Mike Ridley shot.
Washington spent the game's first 15 minutes threatening tscore, but missed numerous high-percentage shots.
The Capitals got off nine shots in the first period, more than halthe total shots (16) they took in last Tuesday night's 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at the Capital Centre.
After Washington squandered all its opportunities, Hartforstruck for a 1-0 lead at 15:15 of the first period. Krygier took a crisp pass from Wilson, who had won the puck in the right corner and gotten past the Capitals' Mike Lalor and Dave Tippett, and drilled it from the middle slot past Washington goaltender Don Beaupre.
Washington almost scored first, at 10:30 of the first period, wheKelly Miller made a spectacular spinning move past two Hartford defenders and came open for a one-on-one shot against Hartford goaltender Daryl Reaugh. But Miller couldn't get the puck past Reaugh.
Hartford had to be content for a 1-0 lead at the end of the firsperiod, after failing twice to score on power plays in the period.
NOTES: The Capitals begin a three-game road trip tomorro night in New York against the Rangers.
Entering last night's game, Washington led the NHL in power play percentage with 26.2. The Capitals were second in the NHL in penalty killing with 87.1 percent.