The Washington Capitals threw Gary Iness to the Bears today. Then they threw Rollie Boutin to the Wolves.

While Inness was joining the Hershey farm club, Boutin was tending the nets against the league-leading Philadelphia Flyers. Of the 20 shots fired Boutin's way, seven went in, as Philadelphia maintained its unbeaten home record with a 7-4 victory.

Boutin was relieved for the first time this season when Wayne Stephenson made his first appearance since Dec. 19 and blanked the Flyers over the last 6 minutes 50 seconds. As a result, Stephenson will start Wednesday night when the Capitals entertain the Edmonton Oilers at Capital Centre.

"Twenty shots and seven goals, that's way too many," said Washington Coach Gary Green. "Rollie has had a tough go the last three games, starting with that third period against Vancouver. I don't know if that shot in the chin did anything that night, but that was when it started."

Besides the unfrocking of Boutin, a genuine hero for the past month, the Capitals new defenseman Robert Picard left in the third period with a sprained right forearm. His status for Wednesday is questionable, as is Rick Green, who sat in the press box with a sprained right wrist, the result of Saturday's fight with Islander Duane Sutter.

"When you go with four defensemen and lose one of them you're in trouble," Green said. "When we lost Pic for the Ranger game, we did not have the same composure back there. And when we lost Greenie tonight it was the same thing. But the only time they were really controlling play in our end zone was after Pic went out.

"We didn't play with as much intensity as I hoped. We made some loose passes that hurt. But they're a good hockey club, the best in the league, and we can't let this get us down. We have to turn it around tomorrow against Edmonton. That's a four-point game, with a team we have to beat to make the playoffs."

Twice the Capitals led, and they trailed by only 4-3 while enjoying a power play late in the second period. But the Flyers never stopped their hitting and they never stopped setting each other up for some pretty goals.

Washington had its share of memorable scores, too. In the game's second minute, Guy Charoon intercepted a pass by Philly's Moose Dupont and beat goalie Phil Myre with a breakaway bullet.

After ex-Capital John Paddock tied it on a rebound, Mike Gartner rode Flyer Norm Barnes off the puck at the left of Myre, turned and beat the goalie with a backhander for his 15th of the season.

The Flyers scored the next three and went ahead to stay. Bob Dailey intercepted an errant pass by Leif Svensson and drive the puck between Boutin's legs. Then Bobby Clarke set up Reg Leach for the first of his two goals and Ken Linseman made it 4-2 on a power-play rebound after Mel Bridgman hit a post.

Washington capitalized on a two-man advantage to pull within a goal. Bengt Gustafsson threaded a 35-footer through a crowd, after Mike Kaszycki won a faceoff from Bridgman and then skated in to screen Myre.

Rick MacLeish, checked in center ice by Pierre Bouchard, flipped a quick pass up ice to Behn Wilson, who completed the two-on-one successfully by whipping the puck past Boutin.

Leach made it 6-3 with his 29th goal early in the third period when Picard blocked his 40-footer, then poked the puck between Boutin's legs instead of clearing it.

Rolf Edberg provided Washington's last bright memory by taking the puck behind his own goal line and racing the length of the rink to beat Myre with a backhander. From there, it was all downhill.

Picard cut around Dupont and shot from close range.As he skated past the net, he was hooked by Dailey and fell into the boards, injuring his right arm. No penalty was called by referee Ron Hoggarth, who had already whistled 17 and overlooked almost as many.

Barber converted a Paul Holmgren pass on a two-on-one with 6:50 left and Boutin skated off. Afterward, asked about his play, Boutin merely mumbled, "Brutal."

Although he faced only 20 shots, Boutin had few easy ones and he foiled breakaways by Holmgren and Dupont to keep it 1-1 after the first period.

Late in the game, Washington captain Ryan Walter was tripped by Clarke and lay on the ice a few moments. Then he rose and shook his head in disgust at Hoggarth who had ignored the incident. It was symbolic of all the frustrations that have been visited on the Capitals here in the Spectrum, where they are 0-11 and only once have lost by fewer than three goals.