The Washington Capitals visit the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night for the second and final time this season. The Canadiens beat the Capitals in a wild one by a final of 6-4 back on November 1. Action from Bell Centre can be seen on NBC Sports Washington starting at 7:30 PM eastern.
The Capitals wrap up a four-game road trip against the Canadiens on Monday. They have gone 2-1-0 and played well in three very tough buildings in Xcel Energy Center, Bell MTS Centre, and Pepsi Center. Washington had the weekend off after Friday’s 3-2 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche. After the Avalanche opened the scoring 1:08 into the game, forwards Devante Smith-Pelly and Alex Ovechkin scored in the second period to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead. Colorado struck with less than three minutes left but center Nicklas Backstrom ended the game 22 seconds into overtime.
Forwards T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov missed Friday’s win over the Avalanche with lower-body injuries and are still labeled as day-to-day. Neither participated when the Capitals practiced at Bell Centre on Sunday. Oshie, 31, was hurt when Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey hit him into the wall in the Jets’ 3-1 win over the Capitals on Wednesday. Kuznetsov, 26, was injured after receiving a hit to the head from forward Marko Dano against the Jets. While neither of them participated, both were in the building when the Capitals skated and neither has been ruled out against the Canadiens.
Against the Avalanche, the Capitals’ penalty killers ended a horrific slump where they gave up at least one power-play goal in six consecutive games. They killed off only 17 of 25 penalties (68%) in that span. They shut down an Avalanche power-play that ranks fifth in the NHL with a 28.1% efficiency on the man advantage, going 2-for-2 on the penalty kill. Coming into Monday night’s tilt in Montreal, the Capitals have an efficiency of 73.2%, the fourth-worst in the league. They face a Canadiens team that is the fourth-worst in power-play production this season, scoring at a rate of only 13.5%.
The Capitals have four players who average at least a point-per-game this season (Backstrom – 22 in 19, Kuznetsov – 21 in 18, Ovechkin – 21 in 19, and defenseman John Carlson – 19 in 18). In addition, those players have double-digit point totals on the power play, (Backstrom – 12, Kuznetsov – 11, Carlson – 11, Ovechkin – 10). They all rank in the top-37 players in the league in terms of point per game average.
Goaltender Braden Holtby will likely return from a lower-body injury that kept him out the past two games and start against Montreal on Monday. The 29-year old goaltender is 5-5-2 with a save percentage of .900, a goals-against average of 3.24, and a shutout this season. Holtby is 11-2-2 with a save percentage of .938, a goals-against average of 1.79, and two shutouts in his career against Montreal.
Montreal returns home from a three-game Western Canadian road trip, where they went 2-1-0 in that span. After getting handled by the Edmonton Oilers 6-2 on Tuesday, the Canadiens bounced back with consecutive 3-2 victories over the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks to return to Montreal on a high note. The team spent most of Sunday traveling across the country to host the Capitals on Monday.
The Canadiens have been one of the league’s most surprising teams in the league so far this season. After missing the playoffs by 26 points a season ago and trading their captain, forward Max Pacioretty, just prior to training camp, they sit in the second wild-card spot with 25 points, four ahead of the Capitals and Ottawa Senators. Montreal started the season 6-2-2 but have fallen to around .500 since the hot start.
Forward Max Domi has been one of the NHL’s most noticeable breakout stars during the first quarter of the season. The 23-year-old leads the Canadiens with 10 goals and 24 points in just 20 games after scoring just nine goals in each of the past two seasons with the Arizona Coyotes. Domi comes into Monday night’s game against the Capitals riding a nine-game point streak, where he’s tallied five goals and 13 points in that span. He also scored a goal when the Capitals and Canadiens first met this season.
Despite the early season success for Montreal, the team ranks dead last in the NHL with a faceoff-winning percentage of 45.1%. Only one of their centers, Philipp Danault, and three of their forwards, Danault, Nicholas Deslauriers, and Charles Hudon, have won at least 50% of the draws he has taken so far this season.
Goaltender Carey Price will likely start against the Capitals. He is 7-4-3 with a save percentage of .904, a goals-against average of 2.92, and a shutout this season. In his career against Washington, the 31-year old netminder is 7-13-4 with a save percentage of .890, a goals-against average of 3.33, and a shutout.
-Carlson is one game shy of passing Brendan Witt (626) for fifth place in games played in franchise history among defensemen
-In 46 career games against the Canadiens, Ovechkin has 51 points (29 goals); Ovechkin is one of only six active players with at least 20 goals against Montreal (forwards Jason Spezza: 32, Eric Staal: 21, Thomas Vanek: 21, Phil Kessel: 21, Patrice Bergeron: 20).;Ovechkin’s 0.63 goals per game against the Canadiens is the highest per game total among active players with at least 20 career games and the ninth highest all-time
-The Capitals’ 29 goals in the second period are tied for first in the NHL this season
A Look Back in Time
The Capitals extended their winning streak to six with a 4-1 victory in Montreal back in January 2017. Backstrom opened the scoring burying Ovechkin’s rebound in front of Price 11:03 into the game. it would remain scoreless until the third period when center Tomas Plekanec tied it for the Habs. Kuznetsov dangled past a Canadiens’ defender to the net for a gorgeous goal to give Washington a 2-1 lead quickly after the Habs evened the score. Forward Brett Connolly made it 3-1 with a ripper from the slot. Ovechkin passed Canadiens legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard with his 544th NHL goal with a zipper from near the blue line. It was also his third point of the game and the 999th point of his career. Holtby made 22 saves in the win.
By Harrison Brown