ST. LOUIS — The strange case of the disappearing offense continued Tuesday for the struggling St. Louis Blues.
It was a season-high third straight loss for the Blues, who were unable to deal with the desperate Washington Capitals and lost 4-1 before 17,447 at Scottrade Center.
The Central Division-leading Blues (52-20-7) have just 19 goals during a 5-6 span that has them wobbling off the rails a bit with the playoffs just around the corner.
As if they needed more to worry about, Blues captain David Backes suffered a lower-body injury during the second period and did not return. Coach Ken Hitchcock said Backes is day-to-day.
The Blues' streak of scoring two goals or fewer has reached six in a row and nine times in the last 11 games.
"Sometimes caring too much gets you in trouble and I think that's where we're at right now," Blues winger Brenden Morrow said. "Goals have been hard to come by and you start to lose focus of what has given this team success."
Morrow insisted better defense, and better offensive execution will lead to more offense.
But that doesn't explain numbers like the ones Tuesday that showed the Blues firing 29 shots, missing the net on 25 others -- and having another 26 blocked. That's 80 total shots with just 36 percent hitting the net.
"I think we're, whether we know it or not, cheating a little bit," Morrow said. "We're worrying about scoring goals instead of really frustrating teams ... really buckling down defensively and frustrating teams. That will lead to our scoring chances."
Last season when the Blues struggled, Hitchcock would question the overall "buy-in."
Is he looking for investors again with the playoffs three games away?
"Quite frankly, I think we're half bought-in, half not," Hitchcock said. "It is an important time. You can only tell them it's important so many times. They have to figure it out for themselves."
The Blues went over half the first period before collecting their second shot of the night. Other than solid first period scoring chances for Alexander Steen and Ryan Reaves, the other Blues continued to fire high, wide or kept getting shots blocked.
Steen returned after missing three games with an upper-body injury, but lamented his inability to score.
"I had three really good looks tonight and didn't convert on them," he said. "I have to be a lot better. I have to be able to put those away."
With Derek Roy off for hooking late in the first period, Washington star Alex Ovechkin ripped a one-timer past goalie Ryan Miller for his 50th goal. It marked the fifth time Ovechkin has reached the 50-goal mark in his career.
The second period began with a much more intense effort from the Blues as the hard-charging fourth line tallied a goal.
Blues winger Steve Ott held in a clearing attempt at the left point and got a shot on net. Maxim Lapierre was there to clean up the rebound for his ninth goal to tie it 1-1.
On its next shift, the fourth line created more buzz and energy and this time drew a penalty. The Blues maintained possession for nearly 40 seconds during the delayed penalty call and nearly scored again, but Steen was robbed by Braden Holtby.
Handed a four-minute power play by the Capitals, the Blues defused it when defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was called for slashing.
Washington regained momentum and built a 3-1 lead before the second period ended.
Mikhail Grabovski struck first, waiting patiently near the left circle before firing a slapper past Miller.
The Blues got no shots on a late power play in the second period, then fell behind 3-1 when Ovechkin set up Nicklas Backstrom.
Backstrom was at it again just 16 seconds into the third period, sending a wrist shot past Miller on the power play for his second goal of the night.
Former Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak was expected to face his old team, but Holtby was the starter instead.
Notes: Army Ranger Sgt. First Class Cory Remsberg from St. Louis took part in an emotional pregame ceremony, pushed onto the ice in his wheelchair by Blues winger T.J. Oshie. Remsberg, who met with the Blues earlier in the day, received a standing ovation and also dropped the ceremonial first puck between Blues captain David Backes and Ovechkin. Remsberg was injured by a roadside bomb during his 10th tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2009, suffering brain damage and paralysis.