Flames continue road swing in Washington

WASHINGTON -- Was it fool's gold or real progress?

After a dismal two-game road trip, the Washington Capitals returned home and turned in a complete effort Saturday night en route to a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild.

T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist, and Braden Holtby stopped 30 shots as Washington, coming off consecutive 6-3 and 6-2 losses, snapped the Wild's four-game winning streak.

"This is a big game for us, a big turning point," Oshie said afterward. "Now, we've got to look forward to the next challenge of maintaining this and trying to get this really ingrained in our game when we play like this."

The next challenge for Washington (11-9-1) is a Monday night visit from the Calgary Flames (11-8-0). After starting a six-game road trip with an 8-2 loss at Detroit, the Flames rallied for a 5-4 overtime win at Philadelphia on Saturday.

Michael Frolik scored 1:18 into OT, and Sean Monahan had a hat trick for Calgary.

"It's exciting because I don't really think we've seen our best hockey yet," Johnny Gaudreau said after assisting on two of Monahan's three power-play goals. "I think the last game in Detroit was a little eye-opening, and we're coming together as a team."

Mike Smith made 35 saves for the Flames after missing one game with an upper-body injury.

"I think as the game went on, I got more comfortable," he told NHL.com.

The Flames have won eight of their past 11 and are 5-0 in overtime.

Monahan, who has 118 career goals and 11 this season, recorded the first hat trick of his NHL career. Gaudreau picked up a goal and two assists to extend his points streak to a career-high nine games.

"When you're a good player in this league, the puck seems to find you," Smith said of Monahan. "He's a real smart player, and he knows where the puck is going to be."

Kind of like Oshie, who has 10 goals and seven assists in Washington's first 21 games. Seven of his goals have come on the power play, where he sets up in the slot.

"What makes him special in that area is that he understands it and he competes so hard in those areas to win pucks," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "I don't know how many goals we've scored where we've had a (prior) chance, maybe two ... and he finds a way to keep a puck alive and get into our possession, and now the penalty-killers are a little bit tired and he just needs that split second if we execute a pass."

Washington's Nicklas Backstrom continues to play well at both ends of the ice, but he hasn't scored a goal in the past 14 games.

"Well, obviously you want to score," he said after picking up an assist on Saturday. "Sun goes up the next day anyway, even if I don't score. Just got to stick with it, work hard and hopefully you get rewarded."

The Flames won the teams' first meeting, 2-1 on Oct. 29 in Calgary, with Smith defeating Philipp Grubauer. Monahan and Micheal Ferland scored for the Flames, while Jakub Vrana tallied for the Capitals. Gaudreau had two assists.

Backstrom has seven goals and 13 assists in 14 games against the Flames. Alex Ovechkin has 10 and 12 in 15 games.

Monahan has six goals in nine games against the Capitals. One-time Capital Jaromir Jagr has 32 goals and 61 assists in 83 games versus Washington.

Holtby is 4-1-1 with a 2.88 goals-against average and an .887 save percentage when facing Calgary, while Smith is 3-8-1, 3.42 and .889 against the Capitals.

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