LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals were on their way to a 7-2 victory over the Penguins last night that would clinch their sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference, when Peter Bondra looked up to see his NHL goal-scoring lead threatened.
But it wasn't threatened long.
With the Capitals leading 4-2 in the third period, and Pittsburgh's Jaromir Jagr having scored the two to get Pittsburgh back in the game and force a goal-scoring tie with Bondra at 32 apiece, Bondra went to work.
He scored short-handed -- for an NHL-leading sixth time -- to retake the lead and give the Caps a 4-2 advantage. And then, after defenseman Sergei Gonchar made it 5-2, Bondra again blasted the puck past a dazed Ken Wregget and into the Penguins' goal.
Dale Hunter started the play that led to Bondra's second goal, with the assist giving Hunter his 900th NHL point.
And that wasn't all the Capitals had to celebrate last night.
For only the second time since being called up from the Portland Pirates on March 2, rookie goalie Jim Carey was rested. And for only the second time this season rookie goalie Olie Kolzig came away with a victory.
Kolzig, who played well from the start of this season without much support, played well early and late last night, making 36 saves.
The Capitals also were playing without two of their top centers, Joe Juneau and Michal Pivonka, but held true to form, getting goals from unexpected places.
Rookie Ken Klee collected two and Craig Berube, Gonchar and Steve Konowalchuk one each to join Bondra's celebration.
Now he must wait to see what Jagr does tonight to find out if he wins the first NHL goal-scoring title in Washington history. And Washington must wait until after tonight's games between Pittsburgh and Florida and Quebec and Hartford to see who its first-round playoff opponent will be.
If Pittsburgh wins and Quebec loses, the Capitals will play the Nordiques on Saturday. If Quebec wins or ties, the Capitals will be heading to Pittsburgh on Sunday for a rematch of last year's first-round playoff confrontation.
"You can look at Jimmy [Carey] and Peter [Bondra] as a big part of what got us here," said Schoenfeld.
"But you also have to look at Kelly Miller, Steve Konowalchuk, Mike Eagles -- who was a great addition -- at Dave Poulin, Joe Juneau -- who has really picked up his game over the past seven or eight games -- at Michal Pivonka -- who I think deserves a lot of credit for Peter's production -- and it goes on and on to [Calle] Johansson, [Sylvain] Cote, Reekie and Tinordi. And Jimmy Johnson, playing left wing as a checker for us when we had people hurt, when we really needed it against Quebec and the New York Rangers.
"And [tonight], you see it again. The accolades should be for all 23 or 24 guys who wear a Capitals uniform."
The Caps took a 3-0 lead in the second period on goals by Klee, Berube and Konowalchuk before the Penguins responded.
After watching their goalie, Wregget, get beaten twice within 90 seconds by Klee and Berube and then seeing Konowalchuk rush in like a speeding Bondra to put the Caps up by three with 10:59 still to play, Pittsburgh fired back.
The man doing the firing was Jagr, and, if there was anyone Washington didn't want to score, it was Jagr.
Jagr got two goals, the first coming on an assist from Ron Francis with 9:04 to play and then, with 3:40 left, he put away a Francis rebound.
Klee scored Washington's first goal 1:50 into the period, and Berube got his second goal of the year with 3:20 gone.