The Washington Capitals spent most of last night at Capital Centre striking back following Philadelphia goals. The last time, the Flyers did not leave them any time.

Brian Propp converted Mark Howe's pass with two seconds remaining to give the Flyers a 5-4 victory, reducing Washington's Patrick Division lead to nine points and giving the visitors renewed hope.

Tim Kerr scored the Flyers' four other goals, giving him nine in five games against Washington.

The winning play developed as Dave Poulin skated into the Washington end and was cut down by Rod Langway. Darren Veitch tried to cover the rolling puck but, realizing he faced a penalty that would carry into overtime, he shoved it away. Howe managed to pounce on it and make the decisive pass.

The Flyers had an edge in play in the first period, outshooting Washington by 11-4, but they were fortunate to reach the intermission in a 1-1 deadlock.

Dave Christian's 21st goal sent the Capitals in front at 9:04, on their second shot. Gary Sampson, who returned to action Friday after a six-week layoff with knee ligament damage, wheeled out of the right-wing corner and made a fine pass to Christian in the near circle. Breaking away from defenseman Thomas Eriksson, Christian put the puck between the legs of goalie Pelle Lindbergh.

Sampson, a center Friday, was back at his normal left wing position, as Bengt Gustafsson was unable to play because of a slightly pulled left hamstring.

Philadelphia tied it at 15:02, on Kerr's 40th goal. It was a fluke, bad-bounce score set up by Murray Craven's dump that caromed off the rear boards and skidded in front while goalie Pat Riggin was behind the net waiting for the puck.

Defenseman Scott Stevens was in position but could not control the puck. Kerr got it and fired it over Stevens, who vainly tried to make up for Riggin's prolonged absence from the crease.

Except for the two scores, there were few good opportunities as both teams resorted to close checking and some intimidating hits. The best of the period, and one that should make a lot of highlight films, saw Stevens turn Dave Brown into a flying object at the Washington blueline.

Each team was penalized once during the period, with Brown chased for hooking Alan Haworth and Washington captain Rod Langway for hooking Peter Zezel.

While Brown was missing, Mike Gartner fed Bob Carpenter, open in front, but Carpenter was unable to control the puck. With Langway off, Riggin made a fine save on Kerr's close-range drive.

The Flyers took a 3-1 lead in the second period on two more goals by Kerr, but it took Washington only 63 seconds after Kerr completed his hat trick to tie up the game.

Kerr broke the 1-1 deadlock at 7:12 with Christian in the penalty box. Christian had hooked Zezel, after Zezel cut between Christian and Timo Blomqvist and seemed headed for a breakaway.

On the power play, Ilkka Sinisalo threw the puck out of the left-wing corner to Kerr outside the right post and the puck was in the net before Riggin could react.

Each team was foiled on some excellent chances before Kerr scored again at 11:51. Riggin stopped Dave Poulin's breakaway and Lindbergh got his shoulder in front of Gartner's shot on a breakaway so clean that Carpenter was the closest player to Gartner as he skated for the net. Washington's Greg Adams batted a loose puck down in front, but could not put it past Lindbergh.

Craven provided the impetus for Kerr's third score. Riggin blocked his drive, but the rebound came out in front and Kerr got enough on it to slide it under Riggin's stick. It was Kerr's 42nd goal.

Nine seconds later, skating down the right wing after Carpenter outdrew Poulin on the faceoff, Gartner passed Lindbergh and flipped the puck into the empty net for his 35th goal.

Fifty-three seconds after that, with the sellout crowd still screaming, Christian moved in from the left-wing boards, faked so adroitly that defender Brad Marsh backed up, and lined a shot off the left post and into the net for his 21st goal.

Adams was penalized for using a high stick on Ed Hospodar after just nine seconds of the third period. The foul, hotly disputed by Adams, who was held by Hospodar with his head across the boards in front of the Flyers' bench for some time, resulted in another power-play goal for Kerr at 0:32.

Kerr was free at the left post when Zezel passed through the crease from the other side. Kerr was alone because the two Washington defensemen were occupied by Eriksson. As Langway spun Eriksson around, the Flyer's skate knocked Veitch off-balance and he went crashing against the rear boards, out of the play.

Once again the Capitals bounced back in a hurry. Craig Laughlin made a rinkwide pass to Doug Jarvis in the right-wing circle and broke for the net, then converted Jarvis' return pass at 1:09. It was Laughlin's 11th goal; Jarvis was part of a more important statistic. This was his 776th straight game, tying Craig Ramsay for No. 2 in NHL history behind Garry Unger's 914.

When Craven was penalized for holding, the short-handed Flyers applied more offensive pressure than Washington, and Riggin had to foil a breakaway by Sinisalo to keep the game even.

With 7:43 left, Lindbergh gloved a testing shot by Gartner.

Riggin stopped Sinisalo on another breakaway with four minutes remaining, after the Flyer avoided a check by Stevens and skated in alone.