CHICAGO -- Never mind that the Washington Capitals' road record is so good that it almost matches the Chicago Blackhawks' home record.
Statistics are irrelevant in Chicago Stadium, where the rink is the smallest in the league, the organ, at full volume, would shatter every piece of glass in the building, and the fans routinely drown out the national anthem.
It doesn't make the 4-2 loss the Capitals suffered to the Blackhawks last night any easier to take, but since Washington hasn't won in Chicago since 1988, it's not a new feeling.
"The Blackhawks play with lots of intensity," said Washington coach Terry Murray. "I'm not sure if any building can give you an edge. They pursue the puck aggressively and keep it moving. The neutral zone is so small here -- the smallest in the league -- and that's where all the things happen."
The loss spoiled Washington's chances of regaining sole possession of the Patrick Division. Before the game, the Capitals were tied with the New York Rangers, who lost to the Buffalo Sabres, 6-3.
The Blackhawks (19-18-9) have won four of their past five games, and have a 12-2-3 record in their last 17 home games. The Capitals (27-15-3), failed to improve on their league-leading 14 wins on the road.
Washington hoped things would be different from three months ago when the visiting Blackhawks trounced their hosts, 7-2. It was the Capitals' first loss of the season and one of just four games the Blackhawks have won on the road.
Since then, the Capitals have compiled the best power-play percentage in the NHL -- 58-for-223, 26.1 percent, before yesterday -- and they have the league's second-best road power play after Pittsburgh.
But it wasn't apparent as they were 0-7 in power-play attempts, compared to Chicago's 0-5.
The 1-1 score after the first period was an encouraging sign for the Capitals -- falling behind early at Chicago Stadium can be fatal -- but center Brent Sutter scored his second goal of the night at 40 seconds from just in front of the crease.
His short-handed goal, assisted by Dirk Graham,, was Chicago's eighth of the the year, and gave it the league lead in that category.
Chicago went ahead 3-1 at 6:54 when Frantisek Kucera delivered a pass from the neutral zone to left wing John Tonelli. Tonelli, playing in his second game in the last 13, took it at the blue line and hit a slap shot which Beaupre only partially deflected. The crowd exploded since it was Tonelli's first goal of the year.
Washington closed the gap to one in the third period when center Dimitri Khristich scored his 21st goal of the season on an assist from Dino Ciccarelli and Dale Hunter, but three minutes later, Chicago's Greg Gilbert fired six shots at Beaupre until the puck finally squirted into the net.
Most of the first-period action took place in the Washington zone as the Blackhawks outshot the Capitals, 15-5.
But Chicago only put one in the net, and that was at 5:55 when center Brent Sutter skated past All-Star Capitals defenseman Kevin Hatcher and flicked the puck into the net.
Washington tied the game when Al Iafrate scored from the point at 11:05. Iafrate's goal -- his 10th of the season -- hit Greg Gilbert's stick and bounced past rookie Dominik Haske, starting in place of Ed Belfour.
Belfour, one of three Blackhawks named to the All-Star team, lost two of his last three games. Hasek is 5-1-0 and has won his last three straight.
Chicago outshot Washington 33-18, and its defense was stingy, giving up only four shots in the second period.
Washington 1 0 1 -- 2
Chicago .. 1 2 1 -- 4
First period--1, Chicago, Sutter 14 (Gilbert, Marchment), 5:55. 2, Washington, Iafrate 10 (Hunter), 11:05. Penalties--Druce, Was (hooking), :37; Konroyd, Chi (interference), 6:36; Hunter, Was (cross-checking), 18:32; Larmer, Chi (tripping), 19:36.
Second period--3, Chicago, Sutter 15 (Graham Chelios), :40 (sh). 4, Chicago, Tonelli 1 (Kucera, Hudson), 6:54. Penalties--Hatcher, Was (tripping), :53; Hudson, Chi, double minor (elbowing, cross-checking), 1:25; Washington bench, served by Ciccarelli (too many men), 10:01; Sutter, Chi (holding), 12:59; Druce, Was (roughing), 16:38; Marchment, Chi (roughing), 16:38; Iafrate, Was interference), 19:53.
Third period--5, Washington, Khristich 21 (Ciccarelli, Hunter), 3:03. 6, Chicago, Gilbert 7 (Sutter, Noonan), 6:06. Penalties--Roenick, Chi (holding), 9:25; Hatcher, Was (hooking), 11:37; Burridge, Was (roughing), 18:09; Iafrate, Was (roughing), 18:09; Hatcher, Was, double minor-major (roughing, fighting), 18:09; Roenick, Chi, double minor (roughing), 18:09; Lemieux, Chi, major (fighting), 18:09; Peluso, Chi, double minor-game misconduct (roughing), 18:09; Graham, Chi, double minor-misconduct (roughing, charging), 18:31; Kypreos, Was (roughing), 18:31.
Shots on goal--Washington 5-4-9--18. Chicago 15-11-7--33. Power-play opportunities--Washington 0 of 7; Chicago 0 of 5. Goalies--Washington, Beaupre, 15-9-1 (33 shots-29 saves). Chicago, Hasek, 5-1-0 (18-16). A--17,588. Referee--Don Koharski. Linesmen--Ryan Bozak, Pat Dapuzzo.