The Washington Capitals achieved another defeat with honor last night. Down, 4-0, after 26 minutes, the Capitals fought back to 5-3 and had several chances to pull closer before dropping a 6-3 decision to the Calgary Flames at Capital Centre.

The loss extended the Capitals' winless streak to 12 games and they must return to action immediately in Quebec, where they face a 7:30 test tonight against the Nordiques, who waffled them here on Stupor Sunday, 11-7. t

"There will be no pressure off tomorrow," said Coach Gary Green. "We don't consider that we're doomed as yet, as some people seem to. We expect to break out of it. We've got to have some luck, along with solid performances by key people."

The Capitals actually enjoyed some good luck last night. Edmonton, leading in New York Islanders, 8-6, in the third period, tied, 8-8, and remained one point back of Washington, which still holds 16th place, the final playoff berth. Defenseman Rick Green, who left in the second period after taking a shot on the back of the right hand, was X-rayed and found to be all right.

Calgary's Bob MacMillan, on a breakway, lined a shot that hit both posts but did not cross the line. And in the game's second minute, the Flames' Bill Clement sent a shot from an almost impossible angle that struck goalie Dave Parro's skate and caromed off a post before flying out.

That lucky deflection might have been considered an indication that good fortune was smiling on the Capitals. Instead, it was merely a warning that Parro was not in top form.

Guy Chouinard broke down the left side, after Dennis Maruk failed to keep the puck in the Calgary end, and cut across the goal mouth. Parro went down too soon and lay on the ice while Chouinard shoved the puck behind him at 4:22.

With Washington's Mike Gartner off the hooking, Kent Nilsson sent a seemingly routine shot from just inside the blueline and Parro muffed it, the puck falling out of his glove into the net at 7:03.

Before the period ended, Don Lever deflected a Paul Reinhart shot into the net for a 3-0 Calgary lead.When the second period began, there were many changes.

Mike Palmateer replaced Parro in the nets, the seventh time in the last 12 games a Washington goaltender has not finished when he started. Additionally, Gary Green abandoned the unusual lines with which he began the game, a setup that had assigned Ryan Walter to right wing for the first time since his junior days.

Back to normal status and with the pressure reduced by the big deficit, the Capitals played well, outshooting the Flames by 15-6 and winning back some of the 8,164 fans, many of whom had booed earlier. Nevertheless, the period was a standstill on the scoreboard.

Darren Veitch and Walter scored for Washington, Ken Houston and Dan Labraaten for Calgary. The red light did not come on as Labraaten broke past Pat Ribble and fired a high shot that struck the inside support of the net and came right out. Referee Ron Hoggarth was not in a good position to see it, either, but linesman Paul Flahery alertly made the call from a perfect spot along the goal line.

Gartner dug the puck out of prolonged pileup in the right-wing corner, cut in front and beat goalie Pat Riggin on a backhander early in the third period to make it 5-3. It was his 34th goal.

With six minutes left, Riggin went down to stop a drive by Pierre Bouchard and Bob Kelly had a chance to close the gap. But he could not lift the puck. A few seconds later, at the other end, Willi Plett lined a shot between Palmateer's legs to assure the Flames their sixth straight victory.

Gary Green, while assuring his audience that the Capitals would be in the playoffs, conceded that the club would need better goaltending.

"What do you tell a guy who lets the puck between his legs except, 'Close your legs,'" Green said. "I can't tell a guy anything except to concentrate.

"There was a lot of pressure on Davey Parro out there tonight. He was tight and he was nervous. But we need goaltending to pull out of this. The players need to have confidence in the goaltender."

Green said he switched Walter to right wing because of the problems Walter had experienced in recent weeks, when he went from plus nine to his current status of minus 11.

"Walt's had a tough couple of months," Green said. "He hasn't been at practice and his legs aren't up to par. But I couldn't believe the effort he gave us in the first period. When I saw his effort, I knew there was no reason not to push him back with Gus (Bengt Gustafsson) and Gartner."