NHL Hockey

Capitals have championship fever ahead of Flames matchup

That championship feeling is circulating through Washington these days. When the Washington Capitals play host to the Calgary Flames on Sunday, they will honor the World Series champion Washington Nationals.

It's a good bet the Capitals have title dreams in their heads these days, too.

The National Hockey League season may only be a month old, but the Capitals are staking their claim as a front-runner. The Capitals -- the 2018 Stanley Cup champions -- not only sit atop the league standings, but they're on a roll, having won three straight and on a 7-0-1 run that includes a 5-3 win in Calgary last month.

They're also coming off a resounding 6-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.

"I think we're very confident out there right now," forward Jakub Vrana said. "We have lots of energy, especially coming back from that (4-0-1) road trip. Everybody's working really hard, blocking shots and playing good defensively, and that creates offense."

In Washington's case, bucket loads of offense. The Caps have netted 59 goals in 15 games, tops in the league, and they're succeeding with a deep roster.

Coach Todd Reirden called their play in Buffalo an example of a four-line game, a match in which Vrana scored twice, Tom Wilson collected one goal and two assists, Brendan Leipsic netted one goal and one assist and Michal Kempny notched three assists. Remember, this is a team that boasts Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, TJ Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom.

"We got contributions from a lot of different people," Reirden explained. "I thought when we did have breakdowns, Braden (Holtby) was really solid (in goal), so that allowed us to take advantage of the opportunities we had in the opposite direction."

The Flames arrive in Washington after a 3-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, their second straight victory, a game in which David Rittich provided a 43-save performance for his second shutout of the season. It's just the second time this season that the Flames have won consecutive games, and they know it will be tough to extend that winning streak to three.

"They're one of the best teams in the league and on a back-to-back situation, you've got to play simple and have to pay smart," forward Matthew Tkachuk said on the team's radio broadcast. "They know how to play and what it takes to win. It's going to be a great test for us, but after the past couple of games, we can carry some momentum and hopefully get the job done and end off an awesome road trip."

The Flames will close out a season-long five-game road trip in which they've posted a 2-1-1 record so far. Calgary has been a middling team so far this season, but is hoping a thrilling 6-5 overtime comeback win over the Nashville Predators on Halloween -- a game in which the Flames erased a 4-1 deficit in the third period -- will be the much-needed springboard to more consistent wins.

"We were feeling pretty good about ourselves going into (the Columbus game)," Tkachuk said. "When you feel good about yourself, you have a better chance to win. We got the job done (Saturday)."

Although Rittich is coming off an excellent performance, Cam Talbot is tabbed to start in goal against the Capitals.

--Field Level Media

Updated November 3, 2019

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