The Washington Capitals ended a four-game losing streak tonight with Tom Rowe scoring the clinching goal on a breakaway midway through the final period for a 6-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers.

After Swedish forward Rolf Edberg banked a shot off the leg of Oiler defenseman Lee Fogolin at 12:25, Rowe burst in off the right side to beat goalie Eddie Mio with a fake 66 seconds later to make it 5-3.

The Caps then weathered a last-gasp Oiler rally. For the third time this season, the Oilers yanked their goalie in the dying minutes with a power-play advantage and they connected. Cowboy Flett notched his second of the night and 201st of his career on a scramble at 17:22. Mio had been pulled a minute earlier.

With Mio on the bench again in the last minute, the Caps iced things with Dennis Hextall sending a 70-footer into an empty net with Ron Chipperfield leaning on him.

Mio was the sole reason the game was as close as it was, as the Caps outshot the Oilers, 33-17. Over the final 40 minutes it was 26-9 for Washington, as the Caps raised their record to 3-6. Edmonton fell to 1-4-4. w

The first period, or most of it, was a yawner -- a sleeping pill for the 15,420 fans at the Northlands Coliseum.

Both the Capitals and Oilers looked as if they were skating in quicksand and only the Caps had reason to look weary. They were scheduled to leave Vancouver, where they lost 5-3 Saturday at 8 o'clock this morning. But their first plane was struck by lightning while on the ground and after 40 minutes in the air the flight was aborted because the electrical system was out. After striking out on another plane, they finally left the West Coast city at 3:30 -- 9 1/2 hours after getting their wake-up call.

As tired as they were, they still struck first. Defenseman Leif Svenssen did all the work, unleashing a 40-foot shot on io, then scrambling to lift a 15-footer over the fallen netminder at 16:32.

The lead looked secure because the Oilers were looking like the Three Stooges. Referee Dennis Morell unfortunately got into the act. First he caught Yvon Labre for holding Oiler winger Blair MacDonald at 17:41. Then as the teams lined up for the faceoff deep in the Caps' end, he whistled Bengt Gustafsson for delay of game. The Swedish center was adjusting his trousers in the faceoff circle.

With a two-man advantage blueliner Pat Price connected on a 45-foot slap shot at 18:03 to tie it, 1-1. Twenty seconds before Gustafsson returned, center Stan Weir tipped Doug Hicks' blueline shot past Wayne Stephenson.

The Oilders, who didn't get a shot on Stephenson until Weir was foiled on a partial breakaway at 9:56, outshot the Caps, 8-7, in the period.

If the first period was a snooze, the second was slapstick -- the Keystone Kops vs. the Three Stooges. Both defenses handled the puck as if it were a grenade with the pin out and the forwards frolicked when they weren't tripping over the puck.

Ryan Walter, the captain of the Caps, took advantage of some slow-footed Oiler defensemen to whip a 20-footer past Mio to tie it at 2-all 76 seconds into the session.

Twenty-five seconds later, just after the Oiler mascot (the Funky Chicken) hit the team bugler in the face with a pie, Cap goalie Stephenson had egg all over his. He allowed Flett's goal to go between his legs from outside Washington's blueline.

The Caps, who played without top scored Dennis Maruk (bad knee), Guy Charron (groin) and Bob Sirois (back), got that one back midway through the period, Rowe picked up on Price's blunder deep in the Oiler zone and slid a pass across the crease for Erroll Rausse's second goal of the year.

Washington dominated offensively, outshooting the Oilers, 13-4, for a 20-12 advantage after 40 minutes. It took sharp goaltending by Mio, particularly on Walter, to keep the Caps to two goals.