Several of the most explosive offensive players in the NHL will be on the ice Monday, when the Washington Capitals host the Calgary Flames. Johnny Gaudreau (29 points) and Sean Monahan, who is coming off his first career hat trick, lead the way for the Flames while captain Alex Ovechkin (13 goals) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (23 points) pace a Washington team that is beginning to turn things around after a slow start.
Calgary has produced 20 goals it its last four games after rebounding from an embarrassing effort in Detroit by rallying for a 5-4 overtime victory at Philadelphia on Saturday thanks to a four-point effort by Monahan. “We needed a bounce-back game,” Monahan told reporters. “Sometimes you don’t win the way you want to, but we stuck with it and we found a way to win, so it’s a big two points for our group.” The Capitals have earned points in seven of 10 games this month (6-3-1) after posting a solid 3-1 victory over Minnesota on Saturday, when Kuznetsov’s power-play goal with 2:37 left sealed things. Washington allowed a total of 12 goals in losing its previous two contests before Braden Holtby, who has recorded seven wins in his last eight starts, shut down the Wild to extend the Capitals’ home winning streak to five games.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet West, TVA (Calgary), NBCSN Washington Plus
ABOUT THE FLAMES (11-8-0): Calgary’s offense has improved thanks in part to the power play, which has converted seven of its 19 opportunities over the last five contests. However, the penalty-killing unit has allowed nine tallies in the same stretch and plummeted to the bottom of the league at 70.6 percent. Defenseman TJ Brodie has recorded four assists in his last three games and moved into third place on the team in scoring with 14 points while Matthew Tkachuk (13) will be back in the lineup Monday after serving a one-game suspension.
ABOUT THE CAPITALS (11-9-1): There are plenty of other weapons to support Kuznetsov and Ovechkin as T.J. Oshie has notched five points in his last three games to push his season total to 17. John Carlson leads the defense with 17 points - 10 in his last nine contests - and the Capitals still are waiting for more production from Nicklas Backstrom, who is mired in a 14-game goal-scoring drought. Holtby has limited opponents to fewer than three goals in six of his last eight games and owns a .924 save percentage this month despite giving up six tallies against Nashville on Tuesday.
1. Flames G Mike Smith has won five of his last six decisions, a stretch that began with a 30-save performance in a 2-1 win over Washington on Oct. 29.
2. Capitals D Matt Niskanen has registered 12 shots and an assist in three games since missing a month with an upper-body injury.
3. Calgary C Mikael Backlund is two goals shy of 100 for his career but is in the midst of a nine-game drought despite notching six assists in that span.
PREDICTION: Capitals 4, Flames 3