The Philadelphia Flyers have long been celebrated for their ability to wage successful war with fists, sticks and elbows. Tonight they proved to be adept at psychological warfare, too.

Bob Sirois and Ryan Walter converted power-play opportunities to lift the Washington Capitals into 2-2 first-perios tie. As Washington embarked on its third extra-man sally, the Spectrum message board reminded that "Flyers top NHL with 10 shorthanded goals."

The Capitals' power play lacked its earlier bite on the four succeeding opportunities and the Flyers encountered decreasing opposition as they skated to a 5-2 victory. Philadelphia's unlikely hero was left wing Yves Preston, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound winger playing his fifth NHL game as a sub for suspended Paul Holmgren.

Preston scored his second NHL goal to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead, then shattered the capitals' comeback by netting the eventual game winner with 3:17 left in the first period.

Preston was signed as a free agent after an undistinguished junior career at Laval. Washington's Robert Picard, who played against him, remembered Preston as "a guy who worked hard all the time. Hard work makes up for a lot."

Picard and some of his teammates worked hard tonight, but others appeared more interested in avoiding muscular Flyers than in giving 100 percent effort. That annoyed Coach Danny Belisle, returning to the city where he coached the American Hockey League Firebirds a year ago.

"A few guys were taking a shift," Belisle said, "but I couldn't say whether they were good or bad, because they didn't seem to be doing anything.



"Man for man, the Flyers, are better than us. There's no use kidding ourselves. If we play up to our potential and they play up to theirs, we'll lose.But that doesn't mean they should beat us every game.

"We made about three glaring mistakes. If we don't make them, the goaltender (Gary Ineess) was good enough that we could have stolen a point. It would have been stealing-they did ouplay and outshoot us."

Inness, making his second Washington appearance, stopped 41 shots as the Flyers enjoyed a 46-24 shooting advantage. It was a different experience from his previous Spectrum appearance, on April 1, 1976, when he played for a Philadelphia Flyer team that rolled up a club-record 62 shots in beating the Capitals, 11-2.

"I remember that one," Inness said. "I didn't play many here, so I remember most of them. The Flyers are going very well right now. They checked us and when we made msitakes, they had the guys to take advantage of them."

Iness blocked the first seven Philadelphia shots, then was victimized by a bad break. He went behind the net to stop a dump by Don Saleski and the puck caromed off a board and slipped past him to Rick MacLeish, who scored unmolested.

"It was hugging the boards all the way and I had my stick down," Inness said. "Five feet away it just jumped and went between my legs. MacLeish isn't the kind of guy to miss that."

Preston made it 2-0 when Inness trapped Moose Dupont's drive in his pads, then permitted it to squirt loose momentarily.*tWith the Flyers' Dave Hoyda off interference, Sirois was twice foiled by goalie Bernie Parent, then finally beat him by converting Guy Charron's cross-crease pass. It was the 17th goal for Sirois, who fired eight shots at Parent and also hit a post in the third period.

Walter deflected a Leif Svensson drive from the right point 28 seconds after Philadelphia's Behn Wilson was called for hooking.

Preston then took a long carom pass off the side boards from Blake Dunlop, skated in from the left-wing circle and flipped the puck over Inness as he crashed into the goalie.

MacLeish made it 4-2 early in the second period with a drive from the left-wing circle after Bill Barber made a fine spinning pass just inside the blue line. Dunlop closed the scoring on a rebound of a Preston shot as the puck lay uncleared too long in fron of Inness.

The game was marred by the usual high sticks, hooks and fights. There were also a couple of humorous moments.

Late in the first period, the Flyers' Bobby Clarke bumped Inness and was shoved by defenseman Rick Green. All the players on both teams crowded into the goal mouth, then Inness crawled out from beneath the massed bodies.

During a multiplayer crush along the boards, referee Dave Newell leaned on Saleski. The Flyer turned menacingly, stick raised, and Newell cringed, shielding his face with his hands.