Bondra lifts Caps to 5-3 win

He breaks franchise mark for points held by Gartner


April 06, 2003|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals had hoped to simply keep their momentum for the playoffs that begin this week and escape this game with the Pittsburgh Penguins without injury.

Instead, the Capitals gave themselves a wonderful injection of confidence, fighting back from a two-goal deficit and winning with a three-goal outburst with 1:32 to go for a 5-3 victory last night.

Peter Bondra, who had two goals last night, set a franchise record for career points with 790, breaking Mike Gartner's record set from 1979 to 1989.

"I pretty much grew up here," Bondra said. "When you start playing in the NHL, you don't think about records like this, but it's been on my mind the last two, three games and I'm glad it happened. - But there is still a lot of work to do. We definitely want to bring the [Stanley] Cup here."

The Capitals got a goal from Ivan Ciernik to tie the game 1-1. Then, after the Penguins erupted for two goals by Richard Lintner and Jamie Pushor in the first 4:19 of the third period for a 3-1 lead, Bondra scored to keep the Penguins in sight.

Then, with 1:32 to go, Dainius Zubrus tied the game 3-3. With 47.8 seconds left, Jeff Halpern scored the game-winner. With 11.8 seconds left, Bondra added the insurance goal.

Besides being the 790th point of his career, it was his 30th goal this season, marking the ninth time he has scored at least 30 in a season.

"That was good," said a smiling Washington coach Bruce Cassidy. "I'm glad to see Peter get the record. He represents this organization well, and that was a fitting way to do it.

"This is a good way to go into the playoffs - on a positive note."

The Penguins, who have been out of the playoff picture for weeks, were playing without Mario Lemieux, who opted out of a meaningless game. But they played hard and used goals by Ville Nieminen, Richard Lintner and Jamie Pushor to forge a lead that looked to be enough to knock out their old nemesis, until the Caps' final flurry.

Washington finished the season with a 39-29-8-6 record and in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh, 27-44-6-5, finished next to last in the conference

The playoffs start Wednesday and the Capitals are expected to begin their series Thursday against Southeast Division champion Tampa Bay. The dates and times won't be finalized until today.

Washington will return to MCI Center next week and may have to play Games 3 and 4 in the best-of-seven series in back-to-back games because other events already scheduled here.

Washington wanted to use this game to sharpen its skills for the postseason. For that reason, Jaromir Jagr, who had missed six games with a broken wrist, and linemate Kip Miller, who missed seven with an upper body injury, played in hopes of regaining their timing.

Five other Capitals who were offered the opportunity to take the night off - defenseman Calle Johansson, Halpern, center Robert Lang, right wing Mike Grier and defenseman Sergei Gonchar - opted to play and complete an 82-game season. It is the first time since 1993-94 that Washington has had that many players compete in every game.

Washington defensemen Ken Klee (foot) and Brendan Witt (ribs) and right wing Sergei Berezin (wrist) did sit out in order to be healed for the postseason.

Pittsburgh 1 0 2 - 3

Washington 0 1 4 - 5

First period - 1, Pittsburgh, Nieminen 9 (Manderville, McKenna), :42. Penalties - Manderville, Pit (roughing), 3:47; Doig, Was, double minor (roughing), 3:47; Fata, Pit (hooking), 13:00. Second period - 2, Washington, Ciernik 8 (Lang), 19:58. Penalties - Johansson, Was (high-sticking), :33; Tarnstrom, Pit (tripping), 12:44; Nylander, Was (holding), 15:55. Third period - 3, Pittsburgh, Lintner 4 (Tarnstrom), 1:30. 4, Pittsburgh, Pushor 3 (Straka, Surovy), 4:19. 5, Washington, Bondra 29 (Grier, Gonchar), 6:44. 6, Washington, Zubrus 13 (Lang, Johansson), 18:28. 7, Washington, Halpern 13 (Johansson, Nylander), 19:12. 8, Washington, Bondra 30 (Zubrus, Halpern), 19:48 (en). Penalty-Heins, Pit (hooking), 12:34. Shots on goal - Pittsburgh 8-11-6-25. Washington 10-6-20-36. Power-play opportunities - Pittsburgh 0 of 3; Washington 0 of 3. Goalies - Pittsburgh, Hedberg 14-22-4 (35 shots-31 saves). Washington, Charpentier 5-7-1 (25-22). A - 18,277 (18,277). T - 2:14.

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