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No incentive for Hawks, and it shows

WASHINGTON -- Lack of motivation can be a sincere issue. It was for the Chicago Blackhawks in their first game since learning they would officially be the third seed in the upcoming playoffs.

From surrendering goals early in each of the first two periods to not lighting the lamp on their own, the Blackhawks never came close to taking down the Washington Capitals. Friday night's 4-0 final score said as much.

"It was a tough start," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said shortly after his squad's four-game winning streak ended. "Both [first and second] periods, we lose whatever energy we're looking to get in a game like that. It was one of those nights where they were clearly the better team."

Speaking earlier Friday after the morning skate, Quenneville said the hope was his squad would maintain its recent winning ways in spite of the incentive-less situation.

The Blackhawks (46-20-15) will open the playoffs on the road at either St. Louis or Colorado, with the location out of their control.

So when Alex Ovechkin sent a one-timer from the left circle inside the near post past Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford 2:03 into the game, Quenneville's stated hopes realistically went away.

Forward Jay Beagle doubled his season total of goals by scoring twice for the Capitals (38-30-13), who are not headed to the postseason. His first goal came by simply directing the puck into an open net with Crawford caught out of position. On his second goal, Beagle had plenty of space in front of Crawford to handle a centering pass as multiple defenders focused on activity elsewhere.

"I think that's probably a good example of what's going to happen if we're trying to make plays and not move our feet," winger Patrick Sharp said. "We've talked the last couple of weeks about how well we've been playing, keeping things simple and just outworking the other team.

"Tonight it seemed right from the start that we were a step behind."

Nicklas Backstrom scored 1:19 into the second period with a shot off the back of Crawford.

"That's not the way you want to play a game," said Crawford, who sat out the third period. "I think it's a dangerous game against a team that's done with, a team with that amount of skill. They were trying stuff that maybe they wouldn't try in any other game. It feels like everything was just working for them."

In addition to not having injured but recovering forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks sat Duncan Keith and Peter Regin. Quenneville hinted additional players could rest in Saturday's regular-season finale at the Nashville Predators. Antti Raanta, who stopped all seven shots he faced in the third, is "likely" to start, Quenneville said.

Considering the circumstance, the coach and starting goaltender are content with discarding the essentially irrelevant outcome.

"We'll throw it in the garbage can," Quenneville said. "We learned a little bit, but certainly we're not happy about the way it was played out."

Said Crawford: "We can definitely just look past and move on to the next one. I don't know, just forget about this. I don't know what else there is to say."