WASHINGTON - Peter Bondra's skate slipped as he was about to leap in jubilation last night, but it didn't curtail his celebration, as the Washington Capitals wing wrapped himself in the arms of his teammates, rejoicing in his power-play goal that beat the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1, in overtime.
In one of the most intense games of the season, the Caps rallied in the third period on Robert Lang's goal to overcome a goal their goalie believed was illegal and beat a team ranked above them in the NHL standings for the first time since Dec. 27.
Part of the payoff was two points in the standings to stretch their Southeast Division lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning to three points with 11 games to play.
The win also stretched Washington's point-scoring streak to eight games (5-0-1-2) and came despite the absence of leading scorer Jaromir Jagr, who is out until at least Friday with a broken bone in his wrist.
"I'm a big guy," said Caps goalie Olie Kolzig. "I don't normally complain. But when it starts costing goals and playoff positions, it needs to be said."
A couple games ago, Kolzig began lamenting the lack of consistency among officials.
"Every player is striving for consistency as we approach the playoffs," he said. "Why aren't the officials? At some point the inconsistency has to stop."
Last night, Kolzig's complaints intensified. He felt he had been interfered with on the Flyers' first power play without a call from the referee. He knew he was interfered with later in the period, when his head was knocked aside and he couldn't see out of his mask. The officials saw that and wiped off the goal that followed.
But in the second period, when the Flyers' Todd Fedoruk took Kolzig's feet out from under him just before a shot by Claude Lapointe flew over his shoulder and into the net for a 1-0 Philadelphia lead, there was no call.
"How [referee] Kerry Fraser could not make that call is beyond me," Kolzig said. "He said, `You lost your balance.' He knows me well enough to know I just don't lose my balance. In a butterfly position it is impossible. The guy - Fedoruk - virtually took my feet out from under me.
"All three situations were the same. It's not OK to give you one or not give you one and then give you the other one. All of them are penalties. Goalies have to be able to see the game."
The Flyers, the third-best team in the Eastern Conference, didn't know what Kolzig was complaining about.
"If you look at film," said Philadelphia's big center, Keith Primeau, "you'll see that Kolzig's own defensemen were pushing bodies into him."