- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 2, 2002

The Washington Capitals played one of their best games of the past few weeks last night yet were in danger of getting no more than a tie, maybe not even that.
In fact, under normal circumstances, a Tampa Bay-Washington matchup in early November is not something that makes the blood boil in the area's hard-core hockey base, but this year is different. The Lightning are leading the Southeast Division and had lost only once before last night, and good things are expected from these Caps.
And it was a good game, as it turned out, no decision reached until 72 seconds were left when Peter Bondra scored with the Caps enjoying a two-man advantage for a 3-2 victory.
Bondra got off a powerful blast from a bad angle that ripped into the top of the net behind Nikolai Khabibulin after the Caps had passed the puck around almost in desperation, trying to find a player in the best position to score and break a four-game winless streak (0-3-1). The victory was Washington's 10th in a row over Tampa Bay at home.
The Caps were two men up because Brad Lukowich took a tripping penalty and Pavel Kubina followed that 1:31 later with a hold, putting Washington up by a pair for 29 seconds. It took 19 seconds to get the win.
"I just held the jersey for two seconds," Kubina said. "They were already on a power play, and [the officials] called it. I guess you can't touch [Jaromir] Jagr."
The Caps used to utter the same complaint every time they played Pittsburgh before Jagr moved to Washington last season.
Steve Konowalchuk and Robert Lang had scored earlier as the Caps recorded more than two goals for the first time since opening night, a 5-4 win over Nashville on Oct.11. The victory still left them five points behind the Lightning in the division race.
"I thought we played well, not just the last period but pretty much over the 60 minutes," said Bondra. "We supported the puck, we did the little things right, we didn't give up many odd-man rushes, we killed the penalties and it was a good thing we scored on the power play. It was 5-on-3, but it was a big goal for us."
Bondra had just come back onto the ice as Washington went on its 5-on-3. He had been taken off the first power play unit because coach Bruce Cassidy was afraid of a breakdown and possible shorthanded score by the speedy Lightning. He used defenseman Calle Johansson in Bondra's place, then put the wing back out with a two-man advantage. Bondra made his coach look like a genius.
"Somebody had to be open, especially on a 5-on-3, and I was open," Bondra said. "We passed around, boom-boom-boom, until we found somebody."
Sebastien Charpentier got the victory, his first this season and his second in the league.
Somewhat uncharacteristically, the Caps had the lead late in the first period until they got sloppy for just an instant, all that Tampa Bay needed. The Lightning gained possession in the neutral zone and quickly reversed the flow of play. Charpentier was looking at a 2-on-1, Sergei Gonchar back. Andre Roy and Martin St. Louis came down, Gonchar slipped and Charpentier flayed his arms like an octopus trying to stop the rush. St. Louis, however, turned him inside-out and put the puck behind him.
That tied the game. Eight minutes into the game, Lang outmuscled the opposition behind the net and came away with the puck. He shuffled a very soft pass out across the goal line and up the slot. There Konowalchuk was charging down the middle, no Tampa Bay player near him. He one-timed Lang's pass, and the Caps were in front.
Again, Washington had a momentary letdown, and the Lightning converted. Eight minutes into the second period, with the Caps not paying much attention to the whereabouts of the opposition, Vincent Lecavalier shot from point-blank range at Charpentier, and the goalie made the stop but didn't hold on. Lecavalier got the puck and jammed it back into the net.
Three minutes later, it was tied again. This time Jagr was carrying the puck down the right side, Lang coming down the left. Jagr lofted a perfect pass across the rink, through traffic, and Lang one-timed it past Khabibulin.
Notes Michael Nylander, obtained from Chicago in a trade yesterday, did not arrive in time for the game. He is expected to play tonight in Philadelphia. Along with Nylander, defensemen Ken Klee and Alex Henry were scratches.


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