Poor goaltending, defensive lapses and a rare bad penalty kill led to an ugly 6-2 loss for the Blackhawks at Washington on Wednesday.
Anton Forsberg allowed 3 goals in the first 15 minutes and 22 seconds and was pulled for JF Berube as the Hawks fell into a 3-0 hole.
It's not quite a death spiral for coach Joel Quenneville's squad, but his team has gone 0-3-2 in their last five games. The Hawks desperately need to take advantage of an upcoming three-game homestand against bottom-feeders Buffalo (7-17-4), Arizona (7-18-5) and Florida (10-13-4) to regain confidence and keep Western Conference wild-card teams in their sights.
"Clearly we're not happy where we are in the standings," Jonathan Toews told reporters. "We know what we're up against going forward. At the end of the day, if you say you're concerned it means you doubt yourself and you don't think you have what it takes to get back to where you want to be.
"For us, that's not at all the case."
The Hawks did outshoot Washington 39-25 -- including 15-1 at one point in the second period -- but it hardly mattered because Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby had a good look at almost every attempt.
"(Most) of our shots hit them right in the chest, with no chance of getting a second opportunity," Quenneville said. "It's almost like we gave the puck back to them, just by putting it at the net with no purpose. So that was tough."
The only Hawks to show a spark were Alex DeBrincat, Lance Bouma and defenseman Connor Murphy. Bouma scored at 17:54 of the first period to cut Washington's lead to 3-1, with the assists going to new linemate DeBrincat as well as Murphy.
"We let their top guys do what they wanted to do with the puck," said Toews, who scored the Hawks' other goal with 3:42 remaining to make it 5-2. "When we get down, they just seemed to feed off it … and they kept coming."
Keith (minus-4) had a rough first period and played a part in two of Washington's goals. On the first one, he blindly played the puck to the center of the ice where Tom Wilson (2G, 2A) began a tic-tac-toe play that resulted in a Nicklas Backstrom goal at 11:54.
Three minutes later, Wilson made it 2-0 on a shot Forsberg should have stopped.
Less than 30 seconds later, Keith's stick got his stick caught deep in the Hawks' offensive zone, which allowed Wilson to sprint down ice all alone. Orlov passed to Wilson, who put a shot on Forsberg that was stopped, but Alex Ovechkin swooped in and banged home the rebound for a 3-0 Capitals lead.
"I know I can be better and I have to be better," Keith said. "It's not good enough."
The Hawks (12-11-5) remain in sixth place in the Central Division and are in a logjam with six other teams in the current wild-card picture. Toews figures a few victories is all it will take to get the ship righted.
"When we start stringing wins together, our confidence is going to come a little bit easier," Toews said. "But for now we've got to find a way to dig deep and find it."