ANAHEIM – Ranked first in the league, the Washington Capitals’ power play also can get predictable. Every team expects the signature 1-3-1 formation and for the puck to find its way to Alex Ovechkin on the left side. Every penalty kill has a player attempting to disrupt Ovechkin’s one-timers from the faceoff circle.

“They were looking for Ovechkin every single second of that power play,” Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty said after the Kings played the Capitals.

T.J. Oshie recently joked that teams are going to start cheating to a different spot on the ice after defenseman Matt Niskanen’s blast from the point on the power play led to two game-winners in two nights, the first one deflected in by Oshie in the slot. Niskanen also scored with a point shot Saturday, but that was in three-on-three overtime and not on the power play.

“Teams are going to look at the last couple of games, and now they’re going to have to get in front of Nisky’s shot, and that’s going to open something else up,” Oshie said. “If they don’t, we’re happy to let ‘Kannon’ keep wiring them.”

“Everybody’s cheating over to Ovi,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said. “. . . If they want to give us that lane, we’re going to have to take that a little more often.”

Washington is at its best when it has clean zone entries and there’s more than one threat on power play. It went through a slump after the all-star break, when the man-advantage had just one goal in five games, and the one was into an empty net. But the Capitals had three power-play goals in four games last week, and none of them was scored by Ovechkin.

Two goals were generated by Niskanen’s point shot, and a third was by Oshie in transition against the Rangers. Oshie had never scored more than six power-play goals in a season in his career, and that was in 2008-09; he already has eight this year.

“I think we try to adjust to what they’re doing, who they’re taking away,” Niskanen said. “Where guys see open ice. We try to prepare for that in the meetings before and try to predict what areas of the ice might be open. The good thing is with the way our hands set up and our one-timers, we don’t have to rotate too far. It’s a matter of four or five feet for some guys, just a little rotation there and I was able to find a lane a couple of times in a row.”

For Trotz, it’s encouraging to see Niskanen taking the shots from the point instead of automatically passing to Ovechkin. Niskanen started the season on the second power play unit, with defenseman John Carlson the quarterback of the first. But a lower-body injury kept Carlson out of the lineup for 12 games and vaulted Niskanen up to the top unit. He has five goals and 23 assists this season, with more than half of his assists coming on the power play.

With Carlson again out after a “procedure” for the same injury, Niskanen is back on the top unit. Against the Minnesota Wild recently, he assisted on Ovechkin’s 40th goal with a perfect pass from the point to the left faceoff circle, setting up the one-timer that followed. After the game, Ovechkin joked that he couldn’t remember the last time he scored with one of his signature power-play blasts.

If teams want to neutralize Ovechkin on the power play, the Capitals are showing they can still find ways to score.

“Nisky is getting a lot of reps there,” Trotz said. “Just getting it right in Ovi’s wheelhouse is real key, sliding it the right way and good deception. Nisky’s not bombing it from the point right now; there’s good lanes there, and he’s just making sure it’s getting through and we’ve got some traffic in there. That’s exactly what a good power play is. They want to take Ovi away, then we’ll shoot it and create it other ways.”

Here’s how the Capitals’ lineup is expected to look against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night:

Forwards
Alex Ovechkin-Nicklas Backstrom-T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Justin Williams
Jason Chimera-Marcus Johansson-Tom Wilson
Daniel Winnik-Mike Richards-Jay Beagle

Defensemen
Karl Alzner-Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik-Dmitry Orlov
Mike Weber-Nate Schmidt

Goaltenders
Braden Holtby (starter)
Philipp Grubauer

Scratches
Taylor Chorney
Michael Latta
Stanislav Galiev

Injured reserve
John Carlson (lower-body)