- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 26, 2003

TORONTO — Jaromir Jagr ended his scoreless streak at five games, but fellow veteran Peter Bondra committed a critical turnover as the Washington Capitals fell 4-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre last night to complete a winless six-game road trip.

“It’s very disappointing because that’s a veteran guy turning it over,” Caps coach Bruce Cassidy said of Bondra’s miscue that led to the Leafs’ third goal early in the final period. “Our veterans worked their tails off, but we’re not scoring. Our effort was fantastic. To get out of something, you usually have to lose a couple of heartbreakers. We played well for 40 minutes in Ottawa [on Thursday] and for almost 60 tonight.”

The Caps’ (1-6-1) trip ended without a victory as the team lost five in a row for the first time since March13-23, 2001. The Caps are winless in seven games for the first time since Feb.1 through March5, 1998. That winless streak bridged the Olympic break.

The Caps have been outscored 27-11 during the winless slide. Washington, which hasn’t won since its season-opening victory over the New York Islanders on Oct.9, finally plays at home again Wednesday against Anaheim.

Last night the Caps held a 40-22 advantage in shots, but Leafs goalie Ed Belfour (39 saves) was too strong.

“It’s a frustrating time right now for everyone,” right wing Mike Grier said. “That’s two games in a row where we’ve had great chances, but the other goalie keeps their team in it and then we have a costly turnover. It will be good to get home. It seems like we’ve been on the road for a while.”

Trailing 2-1 in the second period, Washington had an opportunity to tie the score with Jeff Halpern in the box but Dainius Zubrus couldn’t convert the shorthanded breakaway.

The Caps started the third period with 1:35 left on a power play courtesy of Darcy Tucker’s hold of rookie defenseman Steve Eminger. Not only did Washington fail to do anything with the advantage, but six seconds after it expired, the Leafs’ Joe Nieuwendyk jumped on Bondra’s turnover and whipped the puck past Caps’ goalie Olie Kolzig for a 3-1 lead.

Tucker added an empty-net goal with 30 seconds left for the final margin.

Washington outshot Toronto 13-3 in the first period last night but had nothing to show for it as the game was scoreless after one. Zubrus had two good scoring chances for the Caps, but Belfour robbed him both times.

After that sluggish first 20 minutes, Toronto wasted little time taking the lead in the second period. Alexander Mogilny, back from a five-game absence with a groin injury, was on the left side of the offensive zone when he spotted Bryan McCabe heading to net with a step on Bondra. Mogilny feathered the pass and McCabe put the puck past Kolzig at 1:29 for the goal in his first game.

The Caps were four seconds from killing an interference penalty to John Gruden at 3:47 when Mogilny worked more of his magic and fed Mats Sundin, who got behind the Washington defense. The Toronto captain slid the puck underneath Kolzig at 5:43 for his 300th goal as a Leaf. Sundin joined Hall of Famers Darryl Sittler and Dave Keon as well as Ron Ellis as the only players to accomplish that feat.

Toronto kept the pressure on. After the Caps did nothing with their third power play, calls on Sergei Gonchar for elbowing and Robert Lang for tripping left Washington two men down. However, Kolzig stoned Nieuwendyk and Sundin couldn’t finish a gorgeous setup from Mogilny. And when Toronto’s Owen Nolan went off for hooking, Washington’s power play clicked for the second time in 18 tries in the last five games as Jagr, seemingly trying to pass across the crease to Bondra, had the puck slide between Belfour’s pads at 11:33 to cut the deficit to 2-1.

After Nieuwendyk made it 3-1 early in the third, the Caps had the next two power plays including a 5-on-3 advantage for 52 seconds, but still couldn’t score. In fact, the shorthanded Leafs had the better chances.

When Washington failed for the seventh time in eight power plays after Belfour stoned Zubrus, Bondra and Lang with just over six minutes to play, the loss was sealed.

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