Caps Reap Immediate Benefits

Capitals' Ken Klee (2) takes down Toronto Maple Leafs' Alexei Ponikarovsky (39). AP

Too bad Peter Bondra can't agree to a new contract every night.

The Washington Capitals right wing celebrated his four-year contract extension with a hat trick in Thursday night's 5-4 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I was too excited the first period, a little bit too much," Bondra said. "I made myself sick."

But in the second, he scored his 28th, 29th and 30th goals for his franchise-best 16th career hat trick in a wild period that included seven goals.

"He found some room tonight," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said, "and showed he is a heck of a hockey player."

After the game, the Capitals announced Bondra had agreed to a four-year contract extension worth $18 million, according to a league source speaking on condition of anonymity.

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  • The Capitals have options on the third and fourth years, according to the source. Bondra is making $3.75 million this season.

    It marked a remarkable turnaround for a player who was asking to be traded at the start of the season.

    "I'm happy for Peter," defenseman Sergei Gonchar said. "He deserves it. You can see after he signed the deal he was so excited, he was flying all over the ice."

    Richard Zednik and Dmitri Khristich also scored for the Capitals, who are 4-1-1 in their last six games. Gonchar, the team's only All-Star, had three assists.

    Jonas Hoglund, Shayne Corson, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Mats Sundin scored the Maple Leafs, who rallied after starting slowly. They were outshot 14-5 in the first period, having played the previous night in Carolina.

    "It wasn't as good a start as we would want," Quinn said. "We played like it was the sixth game in nine nights."

    Bondra's first-goal was atypical for him: a deflection of Gonchar's shot from the point in a 4-on-4 situation that made the score 2-0 at 3:25 of the second period.

    The classic, sharpshooting Bondra was on display later, when he rocketed one from the right circle on a power play that made it 3-2. He then dropped to his knees and raised his arms.

    The third goal came less than 2 1/2 minutes later, when Bondra took the puck at the blue line and blasted his shot between the legs of a defender and past goaltender Curtis Joseph on the stick side. Bondra pantomimed tipping his helmet to the crowd as black hats sailed onto the ice.

    The Capitals dominated the first period, taking a 1-0 lead on Zednik's 10th goal on a breakaway down the left wing.

    The second period was something else altogether. The Maple Leafs did their best to keep pace with Bondra's hat trick, rallying from 2-0 down to tie the score 2-2. Down 4-2 thanks to Bondra, Toronto cut the margin again on Ponikarovsky's first career goal before Khristich's power-play score made it 5-3 at the end of the period.

    Sundin's 19th goal, on another 4-on-4, pulled the Maple Leafs to 5-4 with 14:31 remaining. But Toronto couldn't tie it again despite a few chaotic moments in front of goaltender Olaf Kolzig in the final minute.

    "We've got to start playing better defensive hockey," Washington coach Ron Wilson said. "We can't rely on our goaltender to stand on his head. It's not a circus."

    Notes

  • The Capitals acquired right wing Brantt Myhres from the Nashville Predators in exchange for future considerations. Myhres was immediately assigned to the Capitals' AHL affiliate in Portland.
  • Quinn, who successfully teamed Sundin and Sergei Berezin against Carolina to spark a struggling offense, kept the pair together against the Capitals.
  • Washington defenseman Calle Johansson got his 500th career point with an assist in the second period.


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