WASHINGTON - The night before, the Washington Capitals watched the New York Islanders claw back from an early three-goal deficit to gain a home draw.
Last night, on their MCI Center ice against the Buffalo Sabres, the Caps found themselves in a similar predicatment, without the same result. They surrendered two early goals, contributed a second-period gift, and were unable to find a response in falling, 5-2, in front of 15,474.
It was a night on which right wing Peter Bondra moved alongside former Capitals great Mike Gartner as the franchise's all-time leader in goals with 397, but it was Bondra's giveaway at his blue line in the second period, just before the record-tying goal, that set up a short-handed score by Miroslav Satan that proved to be the game-winner.
For Bondra, the night was more bitter than sweet.
"Definitely, I made a mistake and [the milestone goal] wasn't enough. We lost the game, who knows, maybe because of that mistake, so hopefully I learn from that and move on," said Bondra, who now has 15 goals for the season.,
The Capitals (9-13-3) saw a three-game home winning streak come to an end and also fell to 1-5 on the second night of back-to-back games.
On Tuesday, they raced out to a 3-0 lead against the Islanders and had a 5-4 lead late, only to watch the home team come back with a last-minute goal to gain the draw.
Last night, they had the entire third period to get the tying goal, but it was Jean-Pierre Dumont who, instead, provided an early insurance goal for the Sabres before Stu Barnes put in an open-net goal for the final margin.
Sabres goalie Martin Biron, who registered his first career assist, had 10 of his 32 saves in his flawless third period.
Playing without veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar, out of the lineup for undisclosed reasons, the Capitals' defense again had problems.
"Our defense had a little bit of trouble with their speed and we dug a hole," said Capitals coach Ron Wilson. "When you play the night before and then getting down two goals is an awful tough hole to dig yourself out of. We came close, but we made a couple of critical errors that allowed them to score."
The Caps took the long way in getting back into the game in the second period, but a 3-2 deficit was as close as they could get.
After getting a goal from defenseman Ken Klee to cut the Sabres lead to 2-1 - a shot from the point for his first of the season off a clean faceoff win by Andrei Nikolishin - they went on a power play with a chance to tie.
Instead, Bondra gave the puck away at his blue line and Satan converted as the Sabres reclaimed their two-goal lead with 8:59 left.
His head down seconds before, Bondra was quick to make amends, taking a pass from Adam Oates in stride at the other blue line and firing a one-timer past Biron on the same power play just 49 seconds later to close the gap to 3-2.
Bondra received a standing ovation after the milestone was announced.
Before the late-arriving crowd had a chance to settle into its seats, the Sabres had a 2-0 lead off goals by Maxim Afinogenov and Vyacheslav Koslov in the opening six minutes.