Bondra keeps Caps going in playoff hunt

His 18th hat trick sparks 4-2 win over Oilers

team is 1 point out of final spot


March 11, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- The Hockey News reported over the weekend that in the past five years just six teams have been able to claw their way from being out of the playoff picture to being in it over the final quarter of the season.

Though metamorphosis is rare, the Washington Capitals are out to change that statistic. Yesterday afternoon, showing great calm and character, the Caps systematically climbed back from a two-goal deficit to beat the Edmonton Oilers, 4-2, on a hat trick by Peter Bondra and a game-winning goal by Dmitri Khristich.

Khristich scored at 4:16 of the third period. Bondra, who had scored twice in the second period to get Washington back to a 2-2 tie, added the insurance goal with 1:34 to play. It was Bondra's 18th career hat trick, but his first of this season and the first by a Cap since Bondra's last three-goal game, March 9, 2001, against the New York Rangers.

"In the second period of the game, we responded," Bondra said. "We raised the level up. We forechecked harder, and we got some shots. We created chances and the puck went in. That's what makes the difference."

The victory moves Washington within a point of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 16 games to play, including a game here at MCI Center tomorrow night against the Dallas Stars, before leaving on a telling eight-game road trip. Over their past 11 games, the Caps are 7-2-2.

The Oilers, equally desperate, are two points out of the eighth and last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Edmonton got just six shots in the first period, but made them count. Mike Comrie and Todd Marchant both beat goalie Olie Kolzig for a 2-0 lead.

"We were sleeping in the first period," said Kolzig, who had trouble with his stick on the first goal and admitted he'd like to have the second one back. "But we regrouped and I felt sharper as the game went on. In that first period, it was like we were in a fog. Then the fog lifted."

Bondra had been in something of a fog, going a month without a goal. Now, he has six in the past three games. Yesterday, defenseman Sergei Gonchar set up his first goal, a terrific shot from the top of the right circle that just skimmed inside the near post. The second came at 13:14, after Kolzig made a save that sent the puck to Glen Metropolit. When the young center got the puck, he one-timed it to Bondra, who had already turned and was streaking past the blue line.

"Every time I've played with Peter it seems there's a spark," Metropolit said. "I've been really fortunate to play with him and [Jaromir] Jagr and [Adam] Oates. And those big guys really came through."

Khristich then scored off a Ken Klee rebound. He didn't hang around to talk about his contribution, but Kolzig did.

"Dmitri was in the dog house at the beginning of the season," said Kolzig. "But when it's on the line, he's played really well. ... He's a professional who hasn't let things bother him."

Coach Ron Wilson, too, was pleased with the outcome of Khristich's shot.

"He has the ability to score like that," Wilson said. "But he seems to need to be demoted to be inspired. We dumped him on the fourth line for a while, and he has responded. He works hard and when Kono [Steve Konowalchuk] made a great play along the board to get the puck out, Dmitri was in position to make a great play, too."

Edmonton 2 0 0 -- 2

Washington 0 2 2 -- 4

First period -- 1, Edmonton, Comrie 26, 1:30. 2, Edmonton, Marchant 10 (Hecht, Reasoner), 11:54. Penalty--Moreau, Edm (holding), 19:09. Second period -- 3, Washington, Bondra 31 (Gonchar, Oates), 1:17. 4, Washington, Bondra 32 (Metropolit, Kolzig), 13:14. Penalties -- Staios, Edm, major (fighting), 13:57; Grier, Edm (roughing), 13:57; Sacco, Was, major (fighting), 13:57; Konowalchuk, Was (roughing), 13:57; Hecht, Edm (cross-checking), 19:53. Third period -- 5, Washington, Khristich 6 (Klee, Konowalchuk), 4:16. 6, Washington, Bondra 33 (Forbes, Fortin), 18:26. Penalty--Bondra, Was (ob.-tripping), :38. Shots on goal -- Edmonton 6-9-13--28. Washington 3-8-6--17. Power-play opportunities -- Edmonton 0 of 1; Washington 0 of 2. Goalies -- Edmonton, Salo 22-25-9 (17 shots-13 saves). Washington, Kolzig 23-25-7 (28-26). A -- 18,672 (18,672).

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