Caps bounce back, open with 5-4 win over Predators

Cassidy gets victory in debut

Bondra, Jagr combine for three goals


October 12, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Opening night deserved something special. So with the score tied early in the third period, Washington Capital Peter Bondra picked off a puck in the neutral zone and zoomed toward the Nashville goal.

He was hooked a bit on the way, but that didn't stop him. And when he missed the net with a big slap shot, that didn't stop him, either. The puck banged into the glass and before Predator goalie Mike Dunham knew what hit him, the puck had bounced off his back and rebounded into the goal.

It was the start of a crazy little exchange in which the lead came and went three more times before the Capitals finally won in a sprint, 5-4, last night.

Nashville coach Barry Trotz, who had been in the Capitals' organization for years before taking the head coaching job with the Predators, said he has seen goals like Bondra's.

"But never for the Caps," he said.

Welcome to the brand new world of Washington hockey.

With new coach Bruce Cassidy coaching his first NHL regular-season game, the Capitals took off on a run-and-gun mission that produced that lucky goal and victory.

"I didn't even see it go in," said Bondra, who had two goals and an assist. "Maybe it's a sign. Hopefully our whole season will go that way. Maybe last year that puck would go into the crowd and hit someone. This year, it goes in the net."

Bondra's goal gave the Caps a 3-2 lead, but before the game was over, Washington would need two more goals by Stephen Peat and Robert Lang to put the game away.

The victory improved the Capitals' opening-night record to 13-15-1 overall, 13-14-2 in home openers and 3-1 at MCI Center.

The Predators put up a strong battle, taking the early lead and battling back time and again.

Power-play goals by Andy Delmore and Vladimir Orszagh pressed the Caps early and showed the home team some of its weaknesses - undisciplined penalties and penalty killing.

"It's too long a season to dwell on things we could do better," said Cassidy, whose excitement on the bench after winning delighted his team. "We'll talk to the guys tomorrow about that, and that's what I told them after the game. Victories are just too hard to come by ... I'm just happy we got it done."

Washington, under Cassidy's direction, played a much more open, end-to-end game that had the crowd of 17,101 on its feet in a frenzy. It was entertaining, but it could prove worrisome against better teams.

"Do I want to have to score five goals a night to win?" said Cassidy. "No. We have to work on our penalty killing and our discipline. But, I liked the fact we came back early and kept coming back."

There were 21 total penalties called, but only one for obstruction, the rule that received so much attention in the preseason. The Caps' first two goals by Jaromir Jagr (one goal, two assists) and Bondra (with a two-man advantage) and their last goal by Robert Lang (with a two-man advantage) were power-play goals.

The Caps kept Nashville from scoring the tying goal, despite having to play four-on-four because Jagr's stick was found to be illegal.

"I take the bigger stick on the power play to shoot [with]," Jagr said. "It's better for shooting and I know I don't have to skate with the puck. Yes, it is too big, but you have to take a chance. I take the chance and we did not give up a goal."

Nashville 1 1 2 - 4

Washington 0 2 3 - 5

First period - 1, Nashville, Delmore 1 (Orszagh, Arkhipov), 10:20 (pp). Penalties - Bondra, Was (interference), 8:52; Timonen, Nas (interference), 11:18; Eminger, Was (high-sticking), 15:09; Hulse, Nas, double minor (roughing, elbowing), 19:29; Simon, Was (roughing), 19:29. Second period - 2, Washington, Jagr 1 (Bondra, Miller), :33 (pp). 3, Nashville, Orszagh 1 (Arkhipov, Erat), 4:25 (pp). 4, Washington, Bondra 1 (Lang, Jagr), 12:32 (pp). Penalties - Jagr, Was (hooking), 3:46; Johnson, Nas (slashing), 4:52; Halpern, Was (holding), 8:35; Wilm, Nas (hooking), 11:53; Hartnell, Nas (roughing), 11:53; Timonen, Nas (cross-checking), 18:28. Third period - 5, Washington, Bondra 2 (Miller), 1:42. 6, Nashville, Legwand 1 (Skrastins, Johnson), 3:14. 7, Washington, Peat 1 (Metropolit), 3:38. 8, Nashville, Johnson 1 (Pederson, Hulse), 12:40. 9, Washington, Lang 1 (Miller, Jagr), 18:56 (pp). Penalties - Klee, Was (closing hand on puck), 4:02; Yachmenev, Nas (tripping), 6:18; Walker, Nas (interference), 7:19; Klee, Was (holding), 9:48; Simon, Was (roughing), 13:33; Witt, Was (roughing), 14:37; Wilm, Nas (ob.-hooking), 17:46; Hulse, Nas (tripping), 18:08; Jagr, Was (illegal stick), 18:56. Shots on goal - Nashville 4-9-18-31. Washington 5-11-12-28. Power-play opportunities - Nashville 2 of 8; Washington 3 of 10. Goalies - Nashville, Dunham 0-1-0 (28 shots-23 saves). Washington, Kolzig 1-0-0 (31-27). A - 17,101 (18,672).

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