At least the Washington Capitals scored today. That was the consolation, however small, as they fell to the Philadelphia Flyers, 3-1, and dropped 11 points behind in the race for first place in the Patrick Division.

The final score was not the only bad news for Washington. Right wing Craig Laughlin, who is having his best NHL season, suffered a severe sprain to his left ankle and will miss Sunday's game in Buffalo.

Left wing Jorgen Pettersson was a spectator today because of back and knee problems. Although Pettersson said he might be able to play Sunday, the Capitals tonight summoned left wing Daryl Evans from Binghamton of the American Hockey League for possible duty against the Sabres.

Shut out by rookie goalie Darren Jensen on their only previous visit to the Spectrum, the Capitals went 52 minutes 46 seconds today before they were able to beat Flyers goalie Bob Froese.

Dave Christian converted Bengt Gustafsson's pass for his 33rd goal and fourth in three games, but by then the outcome was settled.

Aside from superb, challenging goaltending by Froese, the key to Philadelphia's success was its penalty killing. The Flyers skated off six Washington power plays, notably a two-man shortage for 74 seconds midway through the second period, when they had a 1-0 lead.

First, Dave Richter was chased for high-sticking. Then Froese, upset when Greg Adams was shoved into him by Mark Howe, whacked Adams in the head with his goalie stick and followed that by jumping him from behind as Adams skated up ice. Froese was awarded a minor penalty for roughing.

During the five-on-three advantage, the Capitals managed only one shot, by Mike Gartner.

Then, with less than three minutes left in the period, Richter picked off an attempted clear by Scott Stevens and fired a long shot at goalie Pete Peeters. The rebound popped in front, Larry Murphy swung at it and missed, and the Flyers' Ron Sutter put it in the net for a 2-0 lead.

"Once we killed the two-man shortage off and scored, we pretty much had them," Froese said.

"When I took the penalty, I was just trying to stick up for myself. You can only take so much. No goalie, especially me, is going to go after somebody for no reason.

"He Adams thought my head was a speedbag. It's not very pretty, but it's not a speedbag. He should have been called for interference or something. Some guys are good at interference, but Adams isn't. He just punched me in the head."

Adams, who played with Froese in Maine and Philadelphia, said the two were old pals.

He added, "He likes to talk, but you saw who got the penalty. I got in between Howe and the net, and I got forced into him. I started up ice and he came after me."

Gartner's one shot during the two-man advantage was a good one. Murphy moved into the slot, and Froese came far out to challenge him. The two exchanged moves before Murphy passed to Gartner. By the time Gartner shot, Froese was able to scramble back and stop it.

"I got caught in no-man's land by Murphy," Froese said. "He looked up and tricked me. I was lucky he passed to Gartner and I was able to get back."

Froese was lucky on a few others, but he made several outstanding plays in a 26-save effort.

Early in the game, Christian stole the puck from Tim Kerr, who was held without a shot on goal all afternoon, and started a three-on-one break against Brad Marsh. Marsh blocked Gustafsson's shot, and Froese handled the rebound.

The game still was scoreless when Alan Haworth was left open in the right-wing circle. He fanned on the shot, but the puck trickled toward the net and Froese got just enough to deflect it wide.

Brian Propp sent the Flyers ahead on their fourth shot -- Washington already had 10 -- with 2:03 left in the first period.

Propp dropped a pass to Ilkka Sinisalo, who returned it in the right-wing circle. Propp fumbled the puck until he had very little angle, then fired it off Peeters' left skate inside the post.

Sutter made it 2-0 with 2:45 remaining in the second period. Then rookie Pelle Eklund put the game out of Washington's reach early in the third with his fourth goal in three games, a drive that struck the left post and caromed behind Peeters.

Froese made excellent saves on Bob Carpenter and Haworth before Christian spoiled the shutout bid.

"The turning point was the way we were able to kill off our disadvantages, particularly that two-man disadvantage," said Flyers Coach Mike Keenan. "They had six power plays to our four, and penalty killing was a critical aspect, along with our goaltending."

Washington Coach Bryan Murray agreed, saying: "When you can't score with a two-man advantage, it can turn a game around from a psychological standpoint, and we didn't get it. On several occasions, we had too much finesse play."

Keenan felt Froese, whose league-leading goals-against average dipped to 2.61, played "probably his best game of the year. He was very aggressive in the net, and he was challenging the shooters exceptionally well."

"That was one of my most pleasing games," Froese said. "They've harped at me and harped at me about challenging the shooters, and today I know they didn't take some shots because I was out of the net on top of them."

Laughlin, who had played very well against the intimidating, highly physical Flyers, was injured during a second-period pileup in front of the Philadelphia net. After being helped off the ice, he returned later to test the ankle but felt severe pain when he put pressure on it. He will be examined Monday. Kings 5, Devils 2

Bernie Nicholls scored two goals as Los Angeles defeated New Jersey in East Rutherford, N.J.

The victory was the Kings' third straight, their longest winning streak of the season.

Len Hachborn, Joe Paterson and Dave Taylor scored during the three-goal second period. Taylor's was his 297th NHL goal.