Bondra wins goal title Caps will play Penguins

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Washington right wing Peter Bondra made history last night and got his wish.

Bondra became the first player in Washington Capitals history to win the NHL goal-scoring title, and Pittsburgh's Jaromir Jagr became the first European to win the point-scoring title.

"He is very good player, and I think it is good for him to win the point title," said Bondra, who was out to dinner with his family when he learned of his achievement. "And it . . . is good for me to score most goals, too."

Bondra's 34 goals were enough to earn him the top spot when Jagr, who went into last night's game against Florida with 32, produced just one assist in Pittsburgh's 4-3 loss to the Panthers.

That loss, coupled with Quebec's 4-1 win over Hartford, assured the Capitals of a first-round matchup against the Penguins this weekend in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"It's just what the doctor ordered," said Capitals general manager David Poile of Bondra's achievement. "We've been looking for someone to score goals for us and provide leadership, and he's the guy who came through.

"As for playing Pittsburgh, it's not a surprise to me. I thought it had been shaping up that way for some time. No matter who we play, we're the underdog. But, obviously, there is history between our two teams, and from a fan's perspective, it should be a great matchup."

The Capitals will open the playoffs Saturday or Sunday with Game 1 in Pittsburgh. Game 2 will be in Pittsburgh on Monday night and the two teams will return to USAir Arena for Games 3 and 4, May 10 and 12. If needed, Game 5 will be in Pittsburgh May 14, Game 6 in Washington May 16 and Game 7 in Pittsburgh May 18.

"I think it's super that Peter's won it," said right wing Keith Jones. "Peter has done a great job for us all season. . . . Along with Jim Carey, he's the reason our season turned around the way it did. My hat goes off to him."

Michal Pivonka, who centers the line on which Bondra plays was also happy for his teammate.

"It was great watching Jagr tie him Tuesday night and then seeing Peter moving ahead like that," Pivonka said. "And now he's won it. We've been playing good together for four years now and I'm happy he won it. I don't think I'm playing any better, but Peter is. And Peter playing better helps me and it helps the team . . . and it would be great if Peter still has some goals on his stick for the playoffs."

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