Blackhawks' wounds self-inflicted 'embarrassing' 6-1 loss to Caps
The Blackhawks figured to run into a hornet's nest in Washington on Thursday, two days after the Capitals somehow lost 7-6 in overtime to Columbus -- the worst team in the league.
Alex Ovechkin and Co. were 6 points behind Pittsburgh for the second wild-card spot in the East and in desperate need of a victory.
"Obviously, it's not coming easy right now," Capitals forward Tom Wilson said after that embarrassing setback to the Blue Jackets. "We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit."
On this night, it was the Hawks who self-inflicted their own wounds, with new netminder Anton Khudobin gift-wrapping Washington's first goal by essentially passing the puck to Conor Sheary midway through the first period.
That gaffe opened the floodgates, and the Capitals took a baby step toward staying relevant in the postseason picture by posting a piece-of-cake 6-1 victory.
Anthony Mantha scored to make it 2-0 just 18 seconds after Sheary's goal, Nic Dowd made it 3-0 at 1:27 of the second period and the rout was on.
Ovechkin finished off the scoring, notching his 41st goal of the season and 821st of his career at 14:56 of the third period.
"It's a little embarrassing," Tyler Johnson told reporters. "We're not sticking to our structure, not sticking to our system. We're just out there right now. We've got to compete and play a lot harder for each other."
Washington might want to send a thank-you card to Khudobin, who hesitated a split second too long while playing the puck to the left of the net. He was attempting to thread a pass to Joey Anderson through two Capitals, but the puck slithered weakly off his stick and went right to Sheary.
Khudobin was acquired from Dallas as part of the Max Domi deal on March 2. He's recorded 114 NHL victories, but spent most of this season in the AHL with the Texas Stars.
"It was a tough start," said Hawks coach Luke Richardson. "(Khudobin) had a tough puck play there and not the way he ... wanted to start. But I thought he battled the rest of the way and had some good stops. ...
"That's a strong team and they had the momentum. We just couldn't grab it back."
The Hawks' lone goal came from D-man Nikita Zaitsev.
The Hawks (24-41-6) are 3-9-1 since Feb. 27 and have scored just five times in the last four games. They were outscored 13-4 in two games against the Capitals.
Andreas Athanasiou was one of the few Hawks who had a solid outing. He hit the post twice in the second period and took 7 total shots (3 on goal). Connor Murphy did block 4 shots.
Dylan Strome had 2 assists for Washington.
Hawks defensemen Seth Jones and Connor Murphy were asked about the organization's decision to forego wearing special jerseys during warmups in support Pride Night on Sunday at the United Center. The decision was made because Russian players like defenseman Nikita Zaitsev could face serious consequences by participating. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law late last year that expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBTQ rights.
"The jerseys aren't the whole thing," Jones told reporters. "We still have a lot going on during that night. I know there's a lot of foundations ... still coming to the game, and (they) were OK with us not wearing the jerseys."
Said Murphy: "I hope that people understand we all support them. Whether it's someone in the gay community or someone in any other community ... we hope that everyone feels welcome in our arenas and watching us and even a part of the game and wanting to play. That's the big message."
Philipp Kurashev was hit in the left shoulder by Washington's Tom Wilson early in the first period and did not return. ... Forward Colin Blackwell underwent sports hernia surgery and will miss the rest of the season. Blackwell, who carries a $1.2 million cap hit through next season, had 2 goals and 8 assists in 53 games. ... Defenseman Wyatt Kaiser, who signed a three-year, entry-level deal on March 14, replaced Ian Mitchell in the lineup Thursday. It was Kaiser's second game with the Hawks. ... Capitals F Alex Ovechkin has scored 40 goals for the 13th time, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most in NHL history.