CHICAGO (AP) — Jonathan Toews loves playing alongside Patrick Kane, and the feeling is mutual.
With the Chicago Blackhawks struggling once again, coach Jeremy Colliton tried an old favorite.
Toews had three goals and two assists, Kane added two goals and three assists, and the Blackhawks handed the Washington Capitals their season-high fifth consecutive loss with an 8-5 victory on Sunday.
While Chicago’s power play has been humming along quite nicely, the last-place Blackhawks have been struggling with their even-strength attack. Colliton mixed up his lines in response, putting Toews together with Kane — a common answer for predecessor Joel Quenneville during his 10-plus seasons in charge.
“I know what he likes and how he likes to play and vice versa,” Toews said. “I think we can complement each other well. Obviously Kaner’s been playing with a ton of confidence, so for me it was just go out there and make his life easier and get him the puck and get to open areas.”
Brandon Saad and Alex DeBrincat also scored and Dylan Strome added an empty-netter as last-place Chicago stopped its own five-game slide. Collin Delia made 34 saves, including impressive stops on John Carlson and Tom Wilson in the second.
The Stanley Cup champion Capitals held a short players-only meeting after the loss.
“Our biggest battle is that we’re not complacent,” said goaltender Braden Holtby, who allowed four goals on 11 shots before he was replaced by Pheonix Copley 2:30 into the second. “It’s one of those things that’s going to be hard, is getting over the fact last year is last year. You move on.”
Washington’s defensemen accounted for each of its five goals while star forwards Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov were kept off the scoresheet. Carlson scored twice, Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen each had a goal and an assist, and Brooks Orpik got his second of the season.
It was Washington’s first game in Chicago since Devante Smith-Pelly heard chants of “basketball, basketball, basketball” while the black forward was sitting in the penalty box in the third period of a 7-1 loss last February. The fans were promptly ejected, and then banned from Chicago’s home games.
Smith-Pelly was sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct in the second period of Sunday’s loss, but he said he had no trouble with any fans.
“I said it the day after and I probably repeated it. It’s just a couple of people,” Smith-Pelly said. “I don’t hold it against the city. I wasn’t excited or nervous to come back here. It’s just another game.”
Carlson trimmed Chicago’s lead to 4-3 when he blew a one-timer past Delia 3:09 into the third. Kane responded with a power-play goal, and Toews sent a wrist shot past Copley to make it 6-3 at 7:20.
It was Kane’s 14th goal in his last 14 games. He has seven goals and 13 assists during an eight-game point streak.
After Washington pulled within one again on goals by Carlson and Niskanen, Toews danced around Orlov and beat Copley with 5:03 remaining. Toews’ 21st goal made it 7-5 and completed his sixth career hat trick.
“To see the caliber and level he brings and elevates in those key moments, it’s really special,” Kane said.
It was part of an up-and-down day for Orlov, who got his third goal of the season when his shot from the left boards went under Delia 15:24 into the second. But he also batted a puck out of the air and over Holtby to hand Toews his first goal 14:53 into the first.
NOTES: Blackhawks D Henri Jokiharju was a healthy scratch. The 19-year-old Jokiharju has no goals and 12 assists in 36 games in his first NHL season. “We’ve got some young players. Eighty-two game season, it’s hard to keep that level night-in and night-out,” Colliton said. “So we may end up with a rotation where they’re able to, it’s not necessarily performance specifically why they’re coming out.” … First-year Capitals coach Todd Reirden is from nearby Deerfield, about 30 miles north of Chicago. “I didn’t have to get a lot of tickets. I do have a lot of passes,” a smiling Reirden said before the loss.
Capitals: Host the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday night.
Blackhawks: Host the New York Islanders on Tuesday night.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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