The Blackhawks, leaders of the Norris Division, took a 2-0 lead early in the first period before a sellout crowd of 18,130. Washington tied the score at 2-2 and cut the lead to 4-3 on Mikhail Tatarinov's power-play goal with 7:40 remaining.
Ed Belfour (13-4-1) was outstanding in goal for Chicago, which got goals from Wayne Presley, Jeremy Roenick, Michel Goulet and Dave Manson. Calle Johansson and Michal Pivonka scored for Washington, in addition to Tatarinov.
Belfour made 24 saves, including a big save on a breakaway by Washington's Steve Leach midway through the second period that would have pushed the Capitals into the lead.
"Belfour played well," Capitals coach Terry Murray said. "He made several big saves, especially the stop on Leach. Leach helped him a little because he never got off a strong shot, but it was a fine save, nevertheless."
"Eddie [Belfour] is making the big saves for us," said Presley, who scored Chicago's first goal. "We still have some mental lapses, but he's always there for us."
Chicago, which held a 3-2 lead entering the final period, got a little breathing room when Manson scored on a shot from the top of the right circle at 8:37. After failing to get a shot on a previous power play in the third period, Washington cut the lead to 4-3 as Tatarinov ripped a shot from the right point that hit Chicago defenseman Keith Brown and bounced into the cage past a stunned Belfour.
"Once again, we got solid goaltending and excellent defense," Blackhawks coach Mike Keenan said. "Belfour made some very timely stops and our defense did a good job of keeping Washington from getting many second chances."
Murray said: "The work ethic, intensity and effort were there. We hurt ourselves by giving up two goals in the first five minutes and forcing ourselves to play catch up the rest of the way against a quality team like Chicago."
After the game, the Capitals recalled right wing Bob Joyce and defenseman Chris Felix from the Baltimore Skipjacks and returned right wing John Purves to the Skipjacks.
"Sure, we missed [Dino] Ciccarelli [broken thumb] and [Peter] Zezel [sprained ankle], because our opponents have been keying on our two most productive lines and shutting them down. But Dino and Zezel are just parts of the overall offensive puzzle and we have to have everything come together."
Murray also said that defenseman Rod Langway, who missed last night's game with an injured eye, would also miss the trip to Hartford.
"Rod hurt the eye in the pregame skate and it effected his equilibrium somewhat so we don't want to take a chance of his getting hit in it again," Murray said.
A pair of goals in a 43-second span early in the first period had given the Blackhawks a 2-0 lead.
Presley's slap shot from the right circle that got through goalie Mike Liut's pads at 4:41 gave Chicago a 1-0 lead, and Roenick, who played his junior hockey in the Washington-Baltimore area, scored a short-handed goal at 5:24. Steve Larmer stole a Capitals pass behind the Washington goal and fed Roenick, who was unopposed in the slot. It was the 13th short-handed goal allowed by the Capitals this season.
Johansson's rocket from the left point cut the Chicago lead in half with 54 seconds remaining in the first period. Pivonka whipped the puck around the boards behind the Blackhawks cage and Peter Bondra helped it on its journey to the point. Johansson's shot deflected off a Chicago defenseman's stick in front of the goal went through Belfour's pads.
Washington and Chicago traded goals in the second period. The Capitals tied the score at 2-2 on Pivonka's power-play goal at 9:01. Kevin Hatcher, cutting across the slot from the left point, fired a shot that Pivonka got his stick on and deflected the puck past Belfour.
The Blackhawks regained the lead at 13:20, one second after a power play ended. Goulet put a slap shot on goal from center point that hit a Washington defenseman in front of the goal and skittered past Liut for a 3-2 Chicago lead.
Moments later, Belfour preserved the lead by stopped Steve Leach on a breakaway with a nifty glove save at the left goal post.