Bondra, Capitals sidestep Lightning, 4-1

2 goals lift Washington to tie with idle Montreal


April 04, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - With the second period coming to an end, Tampa Bay's rookie goalie Dieter Kochan saw Peter Bondra sprinting into his zone and evidently thought his best defense was an aggressive attack. He rushed from his crease to cut off Bondra, failing to fully appreciate his speed.

Bondra simply stepped around the diving Kochan and whisked the puck into the open net; it was the first of two open-net goals for the Caps' forward last night, and it was an electrifying sequence. The result was to more or less assure the Capitals victory at MCI Center.

Washington won, 4-1, to move back into a tie with the idle Montreal Canadiens for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. This win, coupled with New Jersey's 3-2 victory over Southeast Division leader Carolina, also puts the Caps in position to tie for the division lead by Saturday night if they can win their next two games: here tomorrow against Ottawa and Saturday at the New York Islanders.

"We have an opportunity to tie them and put some pressure on them," said Capitals coach Ron Wilson. "All we want is an opportunity to control our destiny."

Pressuring Carolina and Montreal is what the Caps' season comes down to. If Montreal and Carolina win the rest of their games, the Capitals will not make the playoffs. If Montreal loses just once and the Caps keep winning, then it is Washington that will qualify. If Washington ties Carolina for the division lead Saturday, it will still be two games behind in the loss column.

"This is like the playoffs, but there is more pressure than the playoffs," said Caps goalie Olie Kolzig. "In the playoffs it's the best-of-seven. You can afford to lose one. Where we are now, we have to keep winning and hope the other teams lose."

Washington extended its winning streak to a season-high four games on goals by defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Sylvain Cote and Bondra.

Returning to action for the first time since suffering a concussion six games ago, Gonchar beat Kochan for his 24th goal and a 1-0 lead with 5:23 left in the first period.

Tampa's Brad Richards tied the score 16 seconds into the middle period and then Cote scored the game-winner. It was only his third goal this season. Bondra's goal was his 38th and moves him into second place in the NHL's goal-scoring race behind Calgary's Jarome Iginla.

Tampa Bay 0 1 0 - 0

Washington 1 2 1 - 4

First period - 1, Washington, Gonchar 24 (Metropolit, Zettler), 14:37. Penalties - Kubina, TB (holding), 1:51; Zettler, Was (ob.-hooking), 6:48; Simon, Was (tripping), 17:36.

Second period - 2, Tampa Bay, Richards 19 (St. Louis), :16. 3, Washington, Cote 3 (Sacco), 4:40. 4, Washington, Bondra 38 (Witt, Fortin), 19:25. Penalties - Sarich, TB (holding), :42; Simon, Was (elbowing), 14:13.

Third period - 5, Washington, Bondra 39, 18:09 (sh-en). Penalties - Witt, Was (elbowing), 9:11; Yonkman, Was (tripping), 13:44; Clymer, TB, major (fighting), 16:04; Zettler, Was, major (fighting), 16:04; Gonchar, Was (high-sticking), 16:47; Royer, TB (tripping), 18:46. Shots on goal - Tampa Bay 6-5-9-20. Washington 7-12-7-26. Power-play opportunities - Tampa Bay 0 of 6; Washington 0 of 3. Goalies - Tampa Bay, Kochan 0-2-1 (19 shots-17 saves), Khabibulin (0:00 third period, 6-6). Washington, Kolzig 30-28-7 (20-19). A - 18,025 (18,672).

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