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POSTGAME NOTEBOOK: Hawks 8, Caps 5

Caps fall in Chicago to lose fifth straight for first time in more than four years, defensemen account for all five Caps goals, more

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / washingtoncaps.com

Five Down - In the wake of Sunday's 8-5 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago, the Capitals find themselves saddled with a five-game losing streak (0-4-1), their longest in more than four years. The last time the Caps lost as many as five straight games was from Oct. 26-Nov. 4, 2014, during the first month of Barry Trotz's four-year tenure as the team's head coach.

The slide started last Saturday with a 2-1 overtime loss to Columbus at Capital One Arena, and the Caps have since suffered four straight losses by multiple-goal margins; they've been outscored by a combined total of 23-9. The Caps lost Sunday's game to the Haws despite scoring five goals, more than they had managed in the previous four losses combined. Washington's five-goal output matched its highest offensive output in the last 17 games; the Caps also scored five times in a 5-3 victory over Philadelphia in the District on Jan. 8.

At this time last month, the Caps were in the midst of their most prosperous stretch of the season, a run during which they won 16 of 19 games (16-3-0) from Nov. 16-Dec. 29. Washington allowed 45 goals against during that 19 game span; the Caps have permitted 43 goals against in 11 games since the end of that spree, posting a 3-6-2 record in the process.

Video: Todd Reirden | January 21

None of that is good, but in the wake of the Caps' landscape-altering Stanley Cup championship victory last June, it's easy to forget that they went through a long stretch of midseason doldrums last season, too. And they eventually found their way out of it and went on the hoist the Cup.

The Caps obviously did not lose five straight at any point last season, but after a solid first half that virtually mirrors their first-half performance this season, they won only nine of 22 games (9-9-4) from Jan. 18-March 8 of last season. During that extended stretch of mediocrity last season, lack of team defense was one of the prime culprits; the Caps surrendered 3.31 goals per game over that 22-game span.

Once they got through it, they went 12-3-0 over the final 15 games of the regular season, shaving their goals against down to a much more reasonable figure of 2.60 goals per game.

Whether the Caps can repeat as Stanley Cup champions obviously will remain an open question for a few months. But they should be able to halt and reverse the slide they're in now. They've done it before, and fairly recently.

Five From The D - All five Washington goals in Sunday's loss came from defensemen. John Carlson scored twice and Brooks Orpik, Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen added single markers.

Video: WSH Recap: Carlson tallies twice in 8-5 road loss

It's just the second time in franchise history that the Caps have gotten five goals from their blueline brigade. Back on Dec. 4, 1992, the Capitals got half a dozen goals from their defensemen in an 8-4 victory over the New York Rangers at the Capital Centre.

Sylvain Cote and Kevin Hatcher each scored twice and Paul Cavallini and Al Iafrate had solo strikes in the win over the Blueshirts. Dmitri Khristich and Pat Elyniuk added the other two goals in the game for Washington.

During that 1992-93 season, Hatcher (34 goals), Iafrate (25) and Cote (21) all reached the 20-goal plateau as the Caps became the first - and thus far, the only - team in NHL history to have three defensemen score 20 or more goals in the same season.

Westward Woes - The Caps' struggles against Western Conference opposition continued on Sunday as they fell to 8-10-2 against the opposite conference and to 3-6-2 against Central Division foes.

In their last nine games against Western clubs, the Caps are now 1-7-1 and they've allowed 45 goals in those contests, an average of five per game.

Top Tandem - Chicago's top two players - forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews - each had five points in Sunday's win over Washington. Toews scored three goals and Kane had a pair. It marked the first time in nearly 16 years that the Hawks had two players rack up five points in the same game.

On March 9, 2003, Eric Daze and Steve Sullivan both recorded hat tricks and notched five points in an 8-5 win over Boston.

Video: Caps 365 | January 21

By The Numbers - Carlson led the Capitals with 25:50 in ice time … Dmitrij Jaskin led the Caps with five shots on net … Jaskin, Carlson and Evgeny Kuznetsov led Washington with seven shot attempts … Alex Ovechkin led the Caps with six hits … Orpik and Carlson each had three blocked shots to lead the Caps … Nicklas Backstrom won 11 of 17 face-offs (65 percent).

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