WASHINGTON, D.C. – There are some games played that teams play so flawlessly, so cleanly that they want to keep them in their memory banks, stash them away as an example of how to play.
For the Chicago Blackhawks, Friday night’s outing was not one of those games.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 51st goal of the season, and it was all down hill from there as the Washington Capitals blanked the Blackhawks, 4-0, at Verizon Center. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Blackhawks, who were shut out for the fourth time this season. Already without Jonathan Toews (left arm) and Patrick Kane (left leg), the Blackhawks were also minus Duncan Keith, who was given a rest day.
The Blackhawks, who were assured of third place in the division after Colorado won and St. Louis lost in their respective games on Thursday night, had little on the line in Friday’s game. They played like there was little on the line, too. Bad turnovers, bad goals and just an overall bad game had the Blackhawks wanting to forget this one fast.
“We’ll throw it in the garbage can and learn a little bit from it,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Tough start. They score like that, get an early one in the second and we lose whatever energy we were looking to get. It’s one of those nights (the Caps) were clearly the better team.”
The Capitals had even less to play for than the Blackhawks, having been eliminated from playoff contention several days ago. It didn’t matter. The Capitals pounced on seemingly every mistake the Blackhawks made, turning turnovers into one high-quality scoring chance after another.
Patrick Sharp said the outing was a cautionary tale.
“That’s probably a good example of what’s going to happen if we try to make plays and not move our feet,” he said. “We talked the last few weeks about how well we’ve been playing keeping things simple and outworking the other team. From the start tonight it looked like we were a step behind.”
And barely two minutes into the game, the Blackhawks were a goal behind. Ovechkin laced a shot that slipped between Corey Crawford’s stick side and the post, a power-play goal to give the Capitals a 1-0 advantage 2:04 into the first period. Jay Beagle added the first of his two goals about seven minutes later, wide open for Dmitry Orlov’s pass and a 2-0 edge.
Nicklas Backstrom scored his 18th of the season, knocking a puck off Crawford’s back and past him for a 3-0 edge 1:19 into the second period. Beagle added his second of the night toward the end of the period. That was it for Crawford, who was replaced by Antti Raanta to start the third period.
“This game tonight, everything worked (for the Caps) and they created some good opportunities,” said Crawford, who allowed four goals on 20 shots. “I gave them a couple bad ones but it just felt like everything they did worked and everything we did didn’t work. That sums it up.”
The Blackhawks have one more regular-season game remaining. Quenneville said some top players may get the night off and Raanta will likely start. Still, the Blackhawks expect to play better than they did on Friday, regardless of lineup changes. The Caps reminded them what can happen if they all take a night off.
“(We have to) redeem ourselves from tonight,” Sharp said. “It doesn’t matter what’s on the line. It’s important we show up and play. It doesn’t matter who’s playing or not playing. You want to go out there and work your hardest and play your best. Tonight, we clearly didn’t do that.”