LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals, their power play fluctuating between poor and below average most of the season, got a big boost from their special teams during a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs last night at USAir Arena.
The Caps scored three times when playing with a man advantage and added another when the clubs were all even. Peter Bondra scored two of the goals for Washington, which won its fifth straight game at home.
"It wasn't perfect, but it was real nice to see a power-play score," said coach Jim Schoenfeld. "That's what won us the game."
"What made it really nice," assistant coach Keith Allain said of the sudden splurge, "is we haven't had a lot of time to work on the power play and penalty killing because of our schedule. That's really coming through."
It didn't take long for Washington to get the power going. Shortly after the midpoint of the first period, two Maple Leafs were exiled to the penalty box 17 seconds apart.
A mystifying 1-for-25 in previous two-man-advantage opportunities this season, the Caps cashed in just 17 seconds later when Peter Bondra belted his 36th goal past goalie Don Beaupre from 20 feet out. The play was unusual in that it was started by Washington goalie Jim Carey, who picked up his first point in 77 NHL games.
No sooner had Toronto gained a fourth skater and things died down when Michal Pivonka duplicated Bondra's tally, pretty much with the same kind of shot.
Toronto climbed back into a tie in the first 10 minutes of the second period, Todd Gill and Mats Sundin lighting it up with the teams at even strength. But once again the Leafs made the mistake of drawing a penalty.
It took Washington just 21 seconds to regain the lead on Calle Johansson's seventh goal. Less than 30 seconds later, and with the teams skating 4-on-4, Bondra stole the puck and cruised in for his second goal of the night.
It was at this point that Leafs coach Pat Burns had seen enough of Beaupre, who perhaps was given the start because of his several fine years with the Caps. Felix Potvin replaced him in goal.
Beaupre offered no defense for having allowed four goals in 32 minutes. "I have nobody to blame," the veteran said, but he could have pointed out how tough things become when the opposition is buzzing around your net for long stretches.
Kirk Muller finished up the scoring for the night with a Toronto power play goal, taking it in all by himself with 4 1/2 minutes left.
NOTES: The Caps sent backup goalie Olie Kolzig to Portland of the AHL for conditioning purposes and called up Ron Tugnutt from the Pirates as his replacement. . . . Fans unable to mush their way through to the game, which was sold out, can exchange their unused tickets for the game against Anaheim on March 19. That same game against the Mighty Ducks also is the makeup for those who were unable to make it to USAir Arena for the Islanders contest Feb. 3.
Toronto .. 0 2 1 -- 3
Washington 2 2 0 -- 4