WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals had been outscored by 14 goals in the first period going into last night's game, but against the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins, the Caps scored twice in the opening period and went on to an encouraging 5-3 victory.
Peter Bondra led the offensive charge with two eye-popping goals. The first came with 7:10 gone in the first period when he scored short-handed. The second, with 4:42 left in the second, when he skipped out of the penalty box just in time to set off on a breakaway.
"We got off to a real good start," said Caps coach Bruce Cassidy. "We were disciplined and opportunistic all night."
As the game tightened up in the third period, with two Boston power-play goals by Brian Rolston and Joe Thornton within 38 seconds of each other, the Caps regained their poise after once leading 4-0 and Steve Konowalchuk put the game away with 6:22 left.
In between Bondra and Konowalchuk, the Caps got goals from Mike Grier and Rick Berry.
Berry's goal was his first as a Capital, but his joy was tempered after he misplayed a puck at the 15-minute mark of the third period. The result left Caps goalie Olie Kolzig (36 saves) in an unenviable position and resulted in Rolston scoring a goal that tightened the game to 4-3.
"Rick meant to direct the puck out of trouble and instead shot on net," Kolzig said. " ... When it gets to 4-3, on a fluke goal like that, there's a little bit of 'Uh-oh.' But we didn't fold the tent."
The Caps' win came as they returned to the MCI Center from a five-game road swing in which they played better but went 1-3-1. But after last night, the Caps are within six points of the Southeast Division leader, the Tampa Bay Lightning. They head to New York for tomorrow night's game against the Islanders before returning to MCI Center on Monday to face the Lightning.
In Boston, the Caps beat a good team that is in the midst of a slump. The Bruins (19-9-3), have now lost five straight.
But despite playing better hockey, few players were willing to say the Caps have turned a corner.
"We've played games before where we've been unbelievable - against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh," Jeff Halpern said. "Then we've followed them up with some terrible hockey games."
Boston 0 0 3 - 3
Washington 2 2 1 - 5
First period - 1, Washington, Bondra 12, 7:10 (sh). 2, Washington, Grier 9 (Halpern, Witt), 10:51. Penalties - Witt, Was (tripping), 6:47; Lapointe, Bos, minor-major-misconduct (instigator, fighting), 16:18; Witt, Was, major (fighting), 16:18. Second period - 3, Washington, Bondra 13 (Sutherby), 15:18. 4, Washington, Berry 1 (Nylander, Jagr), 15:54. Penalties - Axelsson, Bos (holding), 2:38; Boynton, Bos (tripping), 3:21; Whitfield, Was (cross-checking), 7:51; Bondra, Was (high-sticking), 13:12; Doig, Was, misconduct, 19:08; Konowalchuk, Was (roughing), 19:08; Lapointe, Bos, double minor (hooking, roughing), 19:08. Third period - 5, Boston, Thornton 17 (Knuble, Rolston), 5:00 (pp). 6, Boston, Rolston 12 (Murray, Thornton), 5:38 (pp). 7, Boston, Rolston 13, 9:57. 8, Washington, Konowalchuk 7 (Grier, Halpern), 13:38. Penalties - Witt, Was (interference), 3:54; Johansson, Was (high-sticking), 4:34; Klee, Was (interference), 15:00. Shots on goal - Boston 13-16-10-39. Washington 5-8-5-18. Power-play opportunities - Boston 2 of 6; Washington 0 of 4. Goalies - Boston, Grahame 9-5-1 (18 shots-13 saves). Washington, Kolzig 10-9-2 (39-36). A - 16,750 (18,277).