Nov. 20 vs. Calgary Flames at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington +
Radio: 106.7 The Fan, Capitals Radio 24/7
Calgary Flames 11-8-0
Washington Capitals 11-9-1
Washington's four-game homestand continues on Monday night when the Calgary Flames make their only visit to Capital One Arena this season. The game concludes the 2017-18 season's series between the two teams; Calgary edged the Caps by a 2-1 count late last month in Alberta.
The Caps started their current homestand off on the good foot - as the late, great James Brown would have said - posting an impressive 3-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night. Coming two nights after the conclusion of an ugly two-game Western road trip in which they surrendered six goals in each game and lost both by lopsided scores, the Capitals turned in a top-notch performance on Saturday against the Wild, from the top to the bottom of the lineup.
For Washington, the next step is to use Saturday's performance as a springboard to better things.
"No question we can build on this," says Caps right wing T.J. Oshie. "We weren't playing great in really any aspect of our game. The power play was getting chances, but that's about it. But other than that, if you go down the list of things that we want to do well, we weren't doing any of them well on the road there. So this is a big game for us, a big turning point.
"Now, we've got to look forward to the next challenge of maintaining this and trying to get this really ingrained in our game. I think when we play like this, we're going to get a lot of success."
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The Capitals never led at any point during the 120 minutes of hockey they played on the road last week. So it was a tonic for the Caps to score the game's first goal, but it was also heartening to see Washington respond quickly after the Wild tied the game midway through the first. Dmitry Orlov restored the lead less than a minute later, and the Caps maintained and managed that 2-1 lead for nearly 45 minutes, until Evgeny Kuznetsov supplied some breathing room with a power-play goal in the 58th minute of the game.
"I think we did a really good job of managing the game," says Caps goaltender Braden Holtby, who made 30 saves to earn his 11th win of the season. "I think we called upon the more defensive-minded players to play more in the second half [of the game], and I think that's the reason we had that success. We were playing smart and simple, and just waiting for opportunities and grinding down the minutes."
Washington's penalty killing unit snuffed out three straight Minnesota power plays to protect that lead, but the Caps didn't sit back by any means. They continually pushed the pace and attacked the Wild offensively, and only a stellar performance from Minnesota netminder Alex Stalock (40 saves) prevented the Caps from building a bigger lead earlier.
"That's how you have to play with the lead," says Holtby. "You don't want to be timid, but you have to be smart. You have to be going north all of the time. If you limit the turnovers at each blueline, that usually creates success."
Washington's brief two-game slide probably brought about more hand wringing than such a short skid normally would, perhaps because suffering back-to-back regulation losses while surrendering six or more goals in each game hadn't occurred to the Capitals in more than a dozen years. A few more strong games from the Caps should help erase the memory of those losses in Nashville and Colorado last week.
The two points the Caps collected on Saturday moved them to within two points of the top spot of the tightly bunched Metropolitan Division standings. Going into Monday's slate of NHL activity, the eight Metro teams are separated by a total of just five points from top (25) to bottom (20). With 23 points, the Caps are sitting in fifth place in the Metro, just behind a three-team (Columbus, New Jersey and Pittsburgh) logjam at the top.
The Flames are stopping in the District as they finish up the front half of a six-game journey that will keep them out on the road through the end of this week. All together, it's a six-game, 12-day trip. The Flames have one more six-game road trip in February, but that one is a day shorter in duration.
Calgary's trip got off to an inauspicious start in Detroit this past Wednesday. The Red Wings ripped the Flames 8-2, and Calgary forward Matthew Tkachuk was suspended for a game for his part in a melee that broke out in that contest.
Tkachuk sat out the Flames' Saturday matinee match against the Flyers in Philadelphia, a 5-4 Flames victory achieved in overtime. Calgary overcame a two-goal deficit to topple the Flyers, and Flames pivot Sean Monahan netted a hat trick in the game's second period. Michael Frolik supplied the game-winner in the extra session.
The Caps and Flames met last month in Calgary, with the Flames prevailing in that aforementioned game on Oct. 29. That tilt was even at 1-1 in the third period until Johnny Gaudreau set up Monahan for what would prove to be the game-winner midway through the third.
Heading into Monday night's game, the Flames are the league's worst penalty killing team. Calgary is at 70.6% on the kill this season, and it is almost three full percentage points behind the No. 30 team in the league in that category, the Florida Panthers (73.4%). Calgary has surrendered a power play goal in 12 of its 19 games this season, and it has done so in each of its last five games. The Flames have allowed multiple power-play goals against in six of 19 contests thus far in 2017-18.
With its two goals in Saturday's win, the Caps' power play has clicked over 20 percent (20.8%) on the season and is now ranked 11th in the league in that department.