The Washington Capitals' losing streak reached four games last night and early this morning as the Chicago Black Hawks skated to a 6-4 victory at Capital Centre.

With the penalty-filled contest stretching past midnight, the Capitals have the potential to lose twice in one day. They fell eight points behind the New York Rangers, the team they visit tonight at 8, and another defeat could push Washington's playoff hopes precariously close to the witching hour.

The Black Hawks moved into a share of the Norris Division lead with Minnesota, but they were not especially happy, either. Center Glen Sharpley was struck in the left eye by the follow through of Darren Veitch's stick in the first minute and was hospitalized here with massive hemorrhaging.

The game started at 9:15, because of the afternoon basketball contest, but the Capitals were not ready even then, and suffered through 3 1/2 minutes of some of the worst hockey the 10,566 spectators have ever seen.

Chicago scored three times in that stretch, with two goals coming short-handed during one power play. Later, after the Capitals pulled within a goal at 4-3, the Hawks' Denis Savard scored twice late in the second period to put the game out of reach.

Referee Bruce Hood levied 107 minutes in penalties against Washington, 100 against Chicago. Both coaches vehemently disputed some of Hood's calls, with Washington's Bryan Murray frequently yelling from the open door of his bench and Chicago's Keith Magnuson climbing on his bench to voice his complaints.

Six players, three from each team, were not around for the finish. Washington's Bengt Gustafsson departed early with stomach flu, Randy Holt received a game misconduct and Torrie Robertson was ejected automatically after he got three fighting majors. Chicago lost Sharpley, Dave Hutchison with a game misconduct and Al Secord with three majors.

Dave Parro, the Capitals' starting goalie, was relieved by Al Jensen after two periods, in which he yielded six goals on 15 shots. The Hawks had only three shots in the second period, but Savard sent two into the net.

"Davy was playing terrible," Murray said. "I've got to talk to him. I could have taken him out earlier, but I've decided Davy is the No. 1 guy and he has to perform accordingly."

After Parro stopped the Hawks' first shot of the game, the next three got by. Secord started it by deflecting Tim Higgins' shot past Parro at 1:18 for his 23rd goal. Then, with Doug Wilson off for tripping, the Hawks scored two short-handed goals within 19 seconds.

The first came when Dennis Maruk tripped and fell as he carried the puck behind the net. It skidded out front to Darryl Sutter, who quickly sent it past Parro at 3:06.

"There was a big rut in the ice, I went back and looked at it," Maruk said. "I went forward and the puck went forward, too. The guy was right there. It's disgusting."

Rich Preston converted a headman pass from Greg Fox at 3:25 to make it 3-0 and the Capitals were facing an uphill battle.

Four seconds after Wilson's penalty expired, Robertson put Washington on the scoreboard. Tom Lysiak beat Parro on the short side from the left-wing circle, but goals by Tim Tookey and Bobby Carpenter made it a one-goal game early in the second period.

Then the mayhem started. Most of the trouble started after Lysiak hit Tookey and went unpenalized. Various Capitals tried to even things with Lysiak, and the situation soon got beyond Hood's control.

Each team was a man short when Savard made the only memorable play of the game. He split defensemen Terry Murray and Timo Blomqvist, forcing Parro to come out. Savard pushed Parro ahead of the puck, then sent a backhander into the open net.

Before the period ended, Savard pulled the puck out of a scramble along the left-wing boards, cut toward the net and caromed a shot off Parro's pad to make it 6-3.

Bobby Gould brought Washington within two goals at 5:54 of the third period, but that terminated the scoring, and the Capitals' six-game home winning streak died, too.

Washington's power play came up a minus, with one extra-man score in eight chances unable to blot out the two short-handed scores.

"Our power play was just dreadful," Murray said. So was the rest of the game.