Photo: Washington Capitals
Washington Capitals fans have been treated in recent years to major career milestones by Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, among others. Fans are now attending Capitals’ games, almost expecting to see one or more career milestones achieved.
The 2001-02 season was similar in that regard with Capitals players approaching career milestones. In particular, right-wing Peter Bondra, who was in the twelfth year of his career with the Capitals, was approaching another career milestone prior to the game between the Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers taking place on December 4, 2001, at MCI Center.
Just four days earlier, in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Bondra scored the 398th and 399th goals of his career, which allowed him to tie the Capitals’ franchise record for goals, set by Mike Gartner, who had played for the team for many years before getting traded to the Minnesota North Stars at the trade deadline in 1989.
The Caps had a record of 11-13-3-0, 24 standings points but had won their last two games. The Rangers were 17-9-2-1.
The goalie matchup featured Olaf Kolzig for the Capitals and Mike Richter for the Rangers. Richter recorded shutouts in his previous two games.
In personnel notes, Forwards Mike Farrell and Trent Whitfield and defenseman Rob Zettler were healthy scratches for the Caps. For the Rangers, defenseman Igor Ulanov, forward Dale Purinton, and forward Manny Malhotra were also healthy scratches.
Prior to the game, the Caps held a ceremony to honor Bondra’s breaking of Mike Gartner’s franchise goal-scoring record of 397 goals. The team presented him with an engraved silver stick.
A little over a week earlier, the two teams ended a game with a scrum.
The game was a showdown between two of the hottest lines in the league at the time. Prior to this game, Washington’s top line of Adam Oates, Ulf Dahlen, and Jaromir Jagr had 14 goals and 46 points in nine games together.
Meanwhile, New York’s top line of Eric Lindros, Mike York, and Theo Fleury had 26 goals and 62 points in 15 games. The fast tempo and abundance of open ice seemed to favor Jagr and his linemates.
The line of Jagr, Adam Oates, and Dahlen set up the play by pinning the Rangers in their end in the early going. Oates, holding off Tomas Kloucek of the Rangers, stretched to poke a puck ahead to Dahlen, who curled around Richter and scored his 12th goal of the season on a backhand shot. The Caps had an early lead, 1-0.
With less than five minutes to go in the period, Rangers’ forward Radek Dvorak lost control of the puck in the defensive zone. At that point, Capitals power forward Chris Simon launched a precise wrist shot past Richter’s glove and under the crossbar to increase the lead to 2-0 at 15:23.
At 17:21, rookie enforcer Stephen Peat of the Caps got into a fight with Steve McKenna, a much larger opponent. He first caught McKenna with a sneaky left and ended the altercation with furious right uppercuts. This game was the first game that Peat had played in a week.
The score at the end of one period remained 2-0 in favor of the Caps.
The period did not start off well for Bondra, the player honored for his milestone before the game. He took a hooking penalty 11 seconds into the period and the Rangers scored on the ensuing power play. Eric Lindros scored after receiving a cross-ice pass from Mark Messier. Theron Fleury had the secondary assist. The score was now 2-1.
Darren Inge of the Rangers took two penalties in the period, the first one, a holding penalty at 2:51, which the Rangers killed off, and the second one, a tripping penalty at 11:41.
Nearly a minute and a half into the ensuing power play, at 13:15, Bondra got his 400th career goal. A video review showed that Rangers’ David Karpa had knocked the net off its moorings as Bondra’s goal had beaten Richter inside the right post.
With less than five minutes to go in the period, Andrei Nikolishin intercepted a cross-ice pass at the blue line from the Rangers’ Mike York and then passed the puck to Bondra who pushed it in for career goal #401. This was at 15:30. The Caps were now ahead 4-1.
The Rangers cut the deficit to 4-2 at 9:17 of the final period. Radek Dvorak carried the puck end-to-end before he was tripped up as he broke in alone on Olaf Kolzig. Petr Nedved poked in the rebound for the Rangers.
Dainius Zubrus was given a holding penalty at 14:19. But just 11 seconds after exiting the penalty box, he scored the Caps’ fifth goal, unassisted. He created a breakaway chance just moments after Kolzig saved a wraparound shot attempt by Fleury. The final score was 5-2 in favor of the Capitals.
This was the Capitals’ third win against the Rangers in the 2001-2002 season, outscoring the Rangers, 16-6. For the game, the Capitals had outshot the Rangers 35-20 in the game. The Rangers had had only 14 shots on goal during the first two periods.
Bondra became the fifth active player to score 400 goals with one team with his two goals, joining Mario Lemieux, Jagr, Steve Yzerman, and Joe Sakic in that distinction. He now had 19 goals for the season, which was second in the league, and 10 power-play goals, which led the league. Bondra’s milestone goal was also the game-winner.
Bondra spoke to the press after the game.
“We’re playing well as a team; we’re really rolling. We took care of our end [defensively] first, and tonight we did a lot of little things right and because of that, we created a lot of [scoring] chances and a lot of shots. It’s a lot of fun to play right now. We’re really playing together as a team.”
Dahlen also spoke after the game.
“It’s fun just to watch [Jagr] and it’s an honor to be on that line, I don’t know if people really see it, but the way Jaromir was driving to the net and the way he was drawing people to him, it gives us a lot of open ice. He was just flying.”
Head Coach Ron Wilson discussed how the defensive pair of Sylvain Cote and Brendan Witt neutralized Lindros’s line, saying “Nikolishin’s line with Witter and Cote basically had to try to stop the [Lindros] line. And they did a great job of that.”
Ron Low, the goalie coach for the Rangers and a former Caps goalie, spoke from the losing side.
“’We gave them their goals tonight. ‘We didn’t have a lot of juice. But you know what? That’s when you have to play smarter. We gave them their goals just for fun.’”
Mark Messier, the Rangers’ Captain, commented on the game.
“But it was just not a matter of us making mistakes. ‘They forced some of those mistakes, so we have to give them credit. We can’t play the type of game we played tonight and expect to come into their rink and beat them.”
For the Rangers, this game started a five-game losing streak after they had won three games in a row, prior to that.
By Diane Doyle
Washington Post Recap: Bondra Has 2 Goals
New York Times: Capitals Find Way to Solve Richter
Los Angeles Times: Game Story
Box Score From Hockey Reference
Washington Post: Bondra Goal Oriented
Classy gentleman, and a fun player to watch.
And BTW, for the millionth time, Mr. Leonsis, why isn’t #12 hanging from the rafters? And I don’t mean Jeff Friesen!
Banners are a PR thing. Right now, the Caps have several players setting new team and NHL records. I think the Caps are waiting until Ovi retires to use the banner raising to regen interest. Cynical view I know, but that’s my belief.
Thought I’d share a Peter Bondra story here. I was at Piney Orchard, watching practice one day. Bonzai came off the ice, and as he usually did, sat on a bench to sign autographs. Jan Bulis, then an up and coming, hotshot prospect, came off the ice, ignored some girls loudly shouting his name, and went into the dressing room. Bonzai got up and yelled into the dressing room door “Hey Buli! Get out here and sign!” Bulis comes out with a sheepish look on his face, signs 2 or 3 autographs, and sneaks back in, when Bondra isn’t looking. I was rolling on the floor laughing. Bulis’ look was truly priceless. Like he’d been caught by Dad sneaking some beers into his room. Just shows the respect Bondra commanded, especially from the young Euros we had then.
That’s a great story. Bonzai keeping the kids (players) in line. Class act.
Thank you for sharing, Kim. Love to hear stories like, particularly from a past era. Bondra is a treasure.
Will always be my favorite Cap, ever!