- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

Toward the end of last night's game, Sergei Gonchar scored on a blistering shot from the blue line, right in the middle of the ice. On the Washington Capitals' bench, Peter Bondra vaulted into the air, the happiest person at MCI Center.
Gonchar's 21st goal of the season erased what might have been a night of bad dreams for Bondra, who had two goals but also was responsible for two going the other way. Gonchar's goal gave the Caps a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames, a sorely needed victory.
Washington has just 18 games left in the season and an uphill fight that seems to get tougher by the day. The Caps picked up two points on Southeast Division leader Carolina and have a game in hand but still trail the Hurricanes by eight points.
The two teams meet tomorrow night in Raleigh, N.C., easily the most important game left for Washington. The Hurricanes are at Pittsburgh tonight while the Caps will be resting at a Raleigh hotel.
The victory also was important to the Caps after they all but gave away two points Monday night in a horrific 3-2 loss to Toronto, a game Washington led 2-0 midway through the second period. Another confidence-busting loss might have cost the team any chance at the playoffs.
As for Bondra, he put Washington ahead 1-0 and 2-1 but twice committed defensive sins that allowed the Flames to tie the score. While he had two goals, he also stood a chance to be the game's goat.
"Yeah, until Gonchar scored, I was in on every goal on the ice," Bondra said. "I didn't feel good, even if I scored two goals. The mistakes I made, it's hard to forget about them. I'm happy we won, and maybe I can put this game behind me."
The wing was sitting on the bench as the clock ticked down, wearing a long face. Suddenly, with one swipe of Gonchar's stick, Bondra was all smiles. "I was jumping on the bench," he said. "I thought I would hit the ceiling with my head. Definitely, I was happy."
Bondra had 19 goals in his first 30 games this season but has cooled off. His first goal last night was just his fourth in his last 20 games and his first since Feb.6. It was his seventh two-goal game of the season, but no Capital has recorded a hat trick this year a category in which he holds the team career record of 17.
Bondra scored on a power play 7:33 into the game after a feed from Adam Oates that faked most of the Calgary skaters just long enough for the Caps wing to set up.
But the lead lasted less than a minute. Bondra had the puck taken away by Jarome Iginla, the 's leading scorer, who moved in and put about nine world-class moves on Olie Kolzig, who was playing his 400th game as a Cap. Iginla finally lifted a shot over the goalie.
Bondra put the Caps up 2-1 early in the second, putting one of his own rebounds behind Roman Turek after patiently waiting for Chris Simon to set up a screen.
But at 14:30 of the second, with Washington on another power play, Clarke Wilm intercepted a pass and started the other way. He brushed past Bondra, who made a futile attempt to check him, and Sylvain Cote, who was coming off the bench, and went in alone on Kolzig. The goalie got part of the shot but not enough as Washington allowed its seventh short-handed goal of the season.
Dmitri Khristich started the winning play by getting the puck to Steve Konowalchuk. He put the puck on Gonchar's tape, the defenseman wound up and the game was history.
Oates assisted on Bondra's first goal, extending two streaks: He has assists (11) in nine straight games and points (3-11-14) in nine straight. And Gonchar now has points (4-5-9) in eight straight. Jaromir Jagr's five-game point streak ended.


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