Cote slaps Caps past Islanders, 6-5 Bondra takes scoring lead

LANDOVER — LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals had been living off their power play for the last six games before last night's meeting with the New York Islanders. They had produced 13 of their past 19 goals with the man advantage, and last night they scored four more.

But it was an even-strength goal on a slap shot from the point by Sylvain Cote with 8:50 left that allowed Washington to walk off with a stress-relieving 6-5 victory.


Cote's goal was one of those timely plays the Capitals talk about, and it came on a night when Peter Bondra took sole possession of the NHL's goal-scoring lead with 31.

"This was our biggest game of the season so far," said Bondra, who was joined in the goal-scoring parade last night by Dimitri Khristich (two goals), Michal Pivonka, Calle Johansson and Cote. "We still have pressure, but we have two more points and we will keep going. We need at least one more win, but it will be better if we win them all."


The win, like Cote's goal, was indeed timely, given that the

Capitals had to win to assure their sixth-place standing in the Eastern Conference on a night when the New York Rangers, Buffalo, Hartford, Florida and Montreal, their closest pursuers, also were in action.

Thanks to a 3-3 tie between New Jersey and Pittsburgh, the Caps moved within one point of the fifth-place Devils with three games left. The Caps play Buffalo here tomorrow night.

With 9:25 gone in the final period, it appeared the Caps might die by the power play, much to their dismay and that of their 11,343 fans at USAir Arena. Having been on the power play twice in the first two periods and three more times in the first 10 minutes of the final period, New York finally cashed in on a nice play by Zigmund Palffy. He gave the Islanders a 5-5 tie on his second goal of the night, when goalie Jim Carey overcommitted and Palffy was able to hold on to the puck and put it behind the Washington rookie.

It was the second time that Carey had decided to come out of the crease to stop a play in progress and the second time he got burned.

The first time was with 7:32 left in the second period and it also involved Palffy, who was sprinting down the ice to catch up to the puck on a breakaway. Carey came out, got to the puck first and attempted to clear it, only to have Palffy regain possession and smack it into the net for a 4-4 tie.

Afterward, when Washington coach Jim Schoenfeld was asked, "Is this a case of a win is a win is a win?" he grinned.

"We earned this," he said. "We finally get six goals and we're asked if we'll take it? I think we played OK offensively. Defensively, we ranaround too much, but part of that was the Islanders, who played a very unstructured game and caught us off guard early.


"We didn't have the mental focus from our defense that we normally have. . . . But the nice thing was that on a night when Jim [Carey] was uncharacteristically off, the rest of the team was able to rally to get us the victory. It was something we didn't have earlier this season. This was a night of growth for us."

It appeared to be a re-awakening for Khristich, who netted his 11th and 12th goals of the season. It was only his second two-goal game of the season and his first since Feb. 23 against Ottawa. It also is the first time Khristich has scored since the last time the Caps played the Islanders back on April 4, 11 games ago.

Carey managed 24 saves, including five in the latter half of the third period when the Islanders were desperately trying to tie the game.

"It's whatever it takes some nights," said Cote. "We'll kilpenalties some nights. We'll win 1-0 somenights. On other nights, we'll win 6-5 with our power play doing real well."


LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals learned last night that their top defenseman, Mark Tinordi, will be sidelined four to six weeks with a second-degree sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee.


Originally, Tinordi's injury was diagnosed after Monday's game against the New York Rangers as a mild sprain that would sideline him seven to 10 days.

"I'm shocked," said defenseman Sylvain Cote, who plays most five-on-five shifts with Tinordi. "He is a big part of our game. It's too bad for us. He stands in front of the net, makes big hits for us. But I don't think we can feel sorry for ourselves. Nobody else is going to. We simply have to pick it up."

Tinordi, 6 feet 4, 213 pounds, stands up at the blue line and plays on special teams in addition to his regular shift. Most recently he has been used on the Caps' power play, which has produced 16 goals in the past seven games.