- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2003

There were six seconds left in last night’s Washington-San Jose game, the Sharks up by one, when Peter Bondra and Mike Grier of the Capitals started dancing a jig in front of Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

The celebration over Bondra’s apparent game-tying goal started too soon. Referee Craig Spada ruled Bondra kicked the puck into the net, an illegal move, and it made no difference that the Washington forward was being hauled down from behind at the time.

So San Jose won 3-2 in a game where the Caps played with remarkable passion for a fair portion of the third period after not showing much of it earlier.

Thus a seeming two-goal comeback by Washington was nullified, leaving the Caps with a dreadful 3-10-1 record after starting a four-game homestand on a losing note. It was just the third win of the season for the Sharks, coached by former Washington mentor Ron Wilson, who is now 4-2-1 lifetime against the Caps.

The loss also left Washington with an 0-5 record at home against San Jose in its last five and 0-8 overall. Probably even more bothersome was the Sharks were playing the last of seven straight road games, a trip that started 15 days ago.

On Bondra’s shot, it took video officials more than seven minutes to decide if the goal was legal. Wilson speculated it was possible the officials called league headquarters for a ruling, that perhaps it was that close.

“Yeah, I had a kicking motion on it, but I was hoping Mike was right there and he put the puck in,” Bondra said after the game. “When you’re falling, I tried to stay with the puck, tried to use my stick and whatever I had left on that side. Obviously, I guess I kicked it in.”

Said Caps coach Bruce Cassidy: “We need one [call] to go our way and it didn’t, but it was the right call.”

This was another example where the Caps played less than a 60-minute game, and it cost them a badly needed point.

“We were up 1-0 in the second period; we were flat in the first,” Cassidy said. “We wanted to have our legs … we got going a bit, and then we made some mistakes. This is a broken record: puck management. We turn the puck over, and it seems to be someone different every night. Tonight it was a guy who was banging for us and standing up for his teammates and trying to get the crowd into it, and he made a mistake. It’s in our net, and that’s the way it goes.

“In the third period, we’re trying to get back into it, we lose a battle against the wall, and it’s in our nets. Same old story,” Cassidy said.

Washington had a 1-0 lead early in the second on Kip Miller’s first of the season, the last-minute substitute having been a healthy scratch for the last four games. But Alyn McCauley tied it by beating Olie Kolzig high on the short side and Jonathan Cheechoo, taking advantage of a turnover, beat Kolzig on the glove side from short range.

Twelve minutes into the third, Nicholas Dimitrakos had the puck along the boards and drew two Caps to him, a defensive mistake. Dimitrakos got the puck to Patrick Marleau, and he had a clear path to Kolzig for a 3-1 lead.

Three minutes later, the Caps drew within a goal when Bondra got his fifth of the season (four of them with the extra man), pounding home a pass from Jaromir Jagr. That set up the last-minute rush that came within one skate of giving Washington a tie.

The win was a significant relief for the Sharks, who were having nightmares while the video review was under way. Two nights ago in Boston, San Jose had a 5-4 lead in the closing seconds until the Bruins tied it with 13 ticks of the clock left. The game ended 5-5.

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