Caps outlast Sabres, 4-3 Washington takes 2-1 series lead on Bondra's OT goal


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Washington forward Peter Bondra answered coach Ron Wilson's challenge last night.

The Capitals lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals 2-1 because he did.

Bondra had an assist and two goals, including the game-winner 9: 37 into overtime, to give Washington a 4-3 victory before

18,595 at Marine Midland Arena.

Game 4 will be here tomorrow.

Sabres goalie Dominik Hasek made three tremendous saves in the first five minutes of overtime. Twice, he flopped around the ice like a fish out of water to keep the puck out of the net.

But he couldn't bail out the Sabres' leaky defense all night.

One last mistake cost Buffalo the game.

With the Sabres' defensemen too intent on keeping the puck in Washington's zone, Mark Tinordi pushed a loose puck to center ice, where Bondra scooped it up and unleashed a slap shot from the top of the circle to the left of Hasek.

The puck skidded off his glove and into the net, giving Washington consecutive overtime wins in the series.

"I was going full speed and as I went by the bench I heard them yelling for me to shoot," said Bondra, who tied for the league lead with 52 goals in the regular season. "So I closed my eyes and let it rip. I got a little lucky because it hit his glove and it still went in."

Bondra has three goals and four points in the past two games.

More important, he is playing with an intensity Wilson has been trying to bring out of him since the playoffs began.

"This time of the season you have to play with passion," Wilson said. "If you have skill to go with it, then you can really do some good things.

"We coaxed him to play in three or four games because he was hurt and he didn't feel comfortable, but he helped us out. We need him in the lineup."

Bondra didn't do it alone.

His linemates, Richard Zednik and Calle Johansson, also had big games.

Zednik established a team record for goals in the playoffs by a rookie with two, giving him a total of six. Johansson had three assists.

The loss marked the first time since Dec. 27-29 that the Sabres have lost consecutive games. It also ended their home unbeaten streak during the playoffs at four.

"This is a good dose of adversity for our team," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We've been going pretty good for a long time, but not we've got to win on Saturday."

Wilson expected to face a barrage from the Sabres early as they tried to capitalize on the momentum from their first home game in 18 days.

Instead, the Capitals took advantage of some early defensive miscues to take a 2-0 lead.

Bondra, a graceful player, scored his second gritty goal in two games to give Washington a 1-0 lead.

He camped in front of the Buffalo net but for some reason no Sabres defenseman moved. So he was in perfect position to bang home a rebound after Hasek stopped Zednik's initial shot.

Bondra struck again on a power play five minutes later.

With no one harassing him as he stood to the left of the Buffalo goal, Bondra fired the puck into the crease, where it bounced off the chest of Buffalo defenseman Alexei Zhitnik.

Zednik put in the rebound for a 2-0 lead.

"You can see why Bondra scored 52 goals during the regular season," Ruff said. "He put a hurting on us tonight."

Pub Date: 5/29/98

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