PITTSBURGH -- While many of the fans who came to Heinz Field to check out the Penguins-Capitals alumni game on Friday morning were looking to see the return of Pittsburgh's Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux to the ice, it was Capitals alumni Peter Bondra who scored on a shot just 0:42 left in regulation to lift the Washington alumni to a 5-5 tie with Pittsburgh.
The Penguins lineup, with several Hall-of-Famers on their roster, were largely stymied by former Washington netminder Don Beaupre, who was solid in net - despite the fact he had to play with the sun in his eyes during the second half of the contest. Current Capitals assistant coach Dean Evason also had a strong game, picking up a pair of assists in the 40-minute contest.
"The outcome was right, end in a tie, Bondra scoring for us at the end, it was an awesome experience," Evason said afterwards. "[Beaupre] held us in the game at the end."
The Capitals fell behind just 4:22 into the contest on a goal by Rob Brown, but quickly took the lead when current television analyst Alan May tied the score with 6:56 elapsed, then Paul Mulvey scored just :59 later. Rob Buskas squared the game at with 10:23 left in the first half, then Craig Simpson gave the Pens the lead just 2:13 after that.
However, Mark Lofthouse - sporting Alexander Ovechkin's current No. 8 - made a nice move off the ensuing face-off, broke in and beat Gilles Meloche just 10 ticks after Pittsburgh took the lead.
After a full intermission, the Capitals took the lead as Mulvey picked up his second of the morning on a nice feed from Evason, putting Washington up with 5:07 gone in the second. However, the sun came out shortly after the go-ahead goal, and long shadows and sunshine was directly in the Caps' faces for much of the remainder of the contest.
"The sun came out late in the second half, and there was a little bit of problem going the way we were going with the glare." Evason said. "Some guys put tape under their eyes, not sure if it helped."
Jay Caulfield scored with 9:11 left in regulation on a one-time pass from Hall-of-Famer Bryan Trottier, then another Hall-of-Famer in Ron Francis beat Beaupre to give the Pens a 5-4 lead with just 5:27 to play.
Odds got even more stacked against a comeback attempt when the clock went to running time with less than four minutes to play, but once Beaupre was pulled for an extra attacker, Washington scored the equalizer with just 0:42 left to play on a Bondra blast that beat Frank Pietrangelo.
"The puck was laying there and I just closed my eyes and shot it," a laughing Bondra said afterwards.
Unlike a regulation NHL game, the two teams only played two 20 minute periods, and there was no overtime or shootout, leaving the game at a 5-5 tie, much to the dismay of the crowd.
WINTER CLASSIC NOTES: Although the Winter Classic was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. (NBC), rain forecast for Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh pushed the game's starting time to 8 p.m. when weather is expected to be clearer. ... The Penguins practiced in front of some of the crowd that remained after the alumni game, while the Capitals' practice was closed to the public. The tickets sold for Friday's event were only certain sections of the lower bowl as crews prepared for Saturday's NHL contest.
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