The Washington Capitals swept a season series for the first time last night. Twice overcoming two-goal deficits, they overpowered the Calgary Flames, 8-6, for their third victory over the red-clad and red-faced visitors.

Dennis Maruk scored three goals in the second period, ending a four-game drought, to lift Washington into contention. Then third-period scores by Bobby Carpenter, Bengt Gustafsson, Mike Gartner and Bobby Gould clinched the Capitals' fifth triumph in six games.

The only sour note for the Capitals, who climbed within five points of Pittsburgh in the playoff race, was the crowd of 9,810, despite a family night discount ticket promotion.

After a scoreless first period, the Capitals put eight of 28 shots past Calgary goalie Reggie Lemelin, a percentage that would have made the Maryland Terrapins competitive in the afternoon. Maruk scored all three of his shots in the second period, as he benefited from excellent setups by Ryan Walter and Chris Valentine. He also fed Valentine for the rookie's 23rd goal and wound up with a five-point night.

Maruk boosted his figures to 54 goals and 117 points while getting his 12th NHL hat trick, fourth of this season.

"This was an important game for us and we were kind of flat in the first period," Maruk said. "Then we gave them a couple of goals in the second period, but we kept scoring and finally Bobby, Gus and Garts came on big for us and we pulled it out.

"I was a little frustrated at times the last few games, but I was getting chances and I knew they'd start going in. Sometimes the goalie would get hot or I'd hit a post, but the big thing was that while I wasn't scoring, the rest of the team was scoring."

Last night, when the rest of the team didn't seem capable of pushing a medicine ball into a swimming pool, Maruk provided the necessary lift. He scored after the Flames had jumped ahead 2-0 and again after it was 3-1. Valentine and Maruk quickly scored again, to give the Capitals three goals in 4 1/2 minutes and a 4-3 lead.

But with 30 seconds left in the second period, Mel Bridgman rebounded Pekka Rautakallio's shot for a 4-4 tie and there was concern in the Capitals' dressing room.

"That goal at the end of the second period was the most frustrating part of the game," Valentine said. "A goal like that can change the momentum. But (Coach) Bryan (Murray) told us that this was the type of game we ought to be winning and we rose to the occasion. Gus' line had been struggling, but they came through for us."

Carpenter's 25th goal put Washington ahead to stay at 2:13 of the third period. Gustafsson, skating with Carpenter on a two-on-one, drew defender Paul Reinhart toward him, then passed to Carpenter, who lifted a shot over the sliding Lemelin.

Gustafsson almost gave it back a minute later as he lost the puck to Kevin Lavallee in front of the Washington net. But Rick Green was able to clear the bouncing puck and at 9:49 Gustafsson made amends with a breakaway goal after stealing the puck from Jim Peplinski.

Mike Gartner's 32nd goal, off a faceoff in the Calgary end, and Bobby Gould's conversion of a two-on-one with Gaetan Duchesne boosted the margin to 8-4 before Calgary knocked in two meaningless goals. The Flames, third in the Smythe Division, are winless in their last nine road games.

"It wasn't pretty, but it's two points and a sweep of Calgary," Murray said. "We didn't look very promising when we fell back by two, but some guys dug down deep and pulled it out for us. The Maruk line kept us in it and then the Gartner-Gustafsson-Carpenter line played awfully well in the third period, after struggling for a while."

The Capitals have gotten 39 goals in their last six games for a season total of 267, eighth best in the NHL.

In the only other NHL game last night, left winger Bengt Lundholm broke a scoreless tie at 6:15 of the final period in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to spark a 2-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings that extended the Jets' club-record unbeaten streak to six games.