- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2003

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Columbus Blue Jackets are hurting on defense, and Peter Bondra made them feel even worse.

Bondra scored three goals to move into fourth place on the NHL’s career scoring list for European-born players last night, leading the Washington Capitals to a 5-3 victory.

“When you give a player like that a chance to score, they’re going to do it over and over,” Columbus forward Tyler Wright said.

Bondra, from Ukraine, registered his 19th career hat trick. The three goals broke a tie with Toronto’s Alexander Mogilny and pushed his career total to 461.

The scoring spurt came after Bondra was moved up to the No.1 line by coach Bruce Cassidy. He skated next to the high-scoring tandem of Robert Lang and Jaromir Jagr.

“Coach gave me a chance to play on the top line,” said Bondra, 35. “Obviously, those two guys are hot. I took advantage. The [third] goal was almost like taking a cookie from a cookie jar.”

Jagr had a goal and two assists for Washington. Brian Sutherby added a goal, and Sergei Gonchar had two assists.

“I think it was the perfect time for him to be put on our line,” Jagr said. “We needed to get somebody who could shoot.”

The Caps scored four times in less than 10 minutes of the second period — and on just five shots.

Lang had a four-game goals streak end, but he extended his points streak to 15 games (11-12-23). Jagr pushed his points streak to 11 (5-13-18), with assists in his last four games.

Rick Nash notched two goals for Columbus, giving him 15 this season, and Wright added his first.

Jari Kurri leads the European scoring list in the NHL with 601 goals, followed by Czechoslovakia’s Stan Mikita with 541. Both Kurri and Mikita are retired. Jagr is No.3 with 515 goals.

Down 1-0 and 2-1 early in the second period, the Caps took little time to assume command. Just 17 seconds after Nash opened the scoring with his 14th goal — and before the score could even be announced — Jagr unleashed a wrister from the left dot for his ninth goal.

Wright redirected Geoff Sanderson’s long one-timer to give Columbus a brief 2-1 lead. Just 1:08 later, the lead disappeared for good when Bondra found the net with a one-timer from the top of the right circle.

Sutherby jammed in Kip Miller’s perfect lead pass to give the Caps a 3-2 lead at the 9:17 mark. Less than two minutes later, Bondra scored his second after taking a drop pass from Jagr to make it 4-2.

Columbus defenseman Rostislav Klesla injured a knee in the first period and didn’t return, hurting an already depleted Blue Jackets defense.

“We haven’t been able to fight back from many deficits this year, no matter what part of the game,” Cassidy said. “They’ve got a beat-up defense. They lose Klesla; that doesn’t help.”

Bondra’s second goal spelled the end for Columbus goaltender Marc Denis, who was replaced by Fred Brathwaite. Denis faced 14 shots.

Nash pulled the Blue Jackets within a goal just 39 seconds into the final period, but once again the Caps countered almost immediately.

Jagr’s hard shot from the high slot was stopped by Brathwaite, but the rebound bounced among several players in a scrum near the goal mouth. Bondra pulled the puck away from Columbus’ Todd Marchant and slapped the puck into an almost open net.

“They’re a desperate hockey team,” Columbus coach Doug MacLean said of the struggling Caps, now 7-14-1-1. “We should be desperate.”

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