LANDOVER -- Suddenly there were very few kind words to describe what happened to the previously unbeaten Washington Capitals last night.
The 4-0 start had been obliterated by an aggressive Chicago Blackhawks team before 17,381 at the Capital Centre.
The final score: Chicago 7, Washington 2.
It was kind of ugly.
No one expected the Capitals to go unbeaten.
But coach Terry Murray expected a better show from a team that had just taken apart a pretty good New York Rangers squad, 5-1, Friday night at the Capital Centre.
"We should have been riding on the crest of a big win Friday night," said Murray, who didn't buy the age-old letdown excuse. "If you don't temper your enthusiasm with common sense, this game will knock you down and you'll find out what's going on in the real world."
The real world last night consisted of a strong forechecking Chicago team that forced the Capitals into several mistakes.
The Blackhawks swarmed Capitals goaltender Jim Hrivnak from the start, scoring twice on rebounds in a three-goal first period for a 3-0 lead.
Center Mike Hudson and left wing Steve Thomas knocked in the rebound goals for the Blackhawks in the first period after defenseman Steve Smith had opened the scoring with a shot from the left point.
It was the second straight seven-goal performance for a victory (7-6 over Vancouver Canucks Thursday night) by Chicago, which had started 0-2-1.
Hrivnak was under siege so much that he was left virtually speechless afterward.
"I don't know what to think," said Hrivnak, who had been an instant hit in his first game for Washington this season (3-1 victory over Buffalo Sabres last weekend)."I just have to work hard to bounce back from this game."
Murray refused to single out Hrivnak (25 saves, 7 goals) for the blame last night.
"We didn't play well in front of Hrivnak," said Murray. "I'm not going to lay the blame on Hrivnak."
Also, Murray would not single out any other Washington players, even though defenseman Calle Johansson was a minus-6 and defenseman Kevin Hatcher was a minus-4.
"It wouldn't do any good to start pointing out certain players," said Murray. "I could say a lot of things that would be excuses, but we just have to regroup and not dwell on this game. Chicago is a good team and forced us to do things we didn't want to do."
Hatcher said: "It was one of those nights. Chicago was all over us from the beginning. Calle and I didn't have good games, but we're still 4-1."
Hatcher said the Blackhawks played like the Capitals did in Friday night's victory.
"They [Chicago] did all the forechecking," said Hatcher.
However, there was one man on the sidelines last night who had compassion for the Capitals -- Chicago coach Mike Keenan.
"What did help us was they had to play a divisional game last night [Friday]," said Keenan of the 5-1 Washington win over the Rangers. "It was a high intensity game for them, and they probably came out a bit flat tonight."