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Caps stars still hard to contain

Jaromir Jagr and Peter Bondra tie career highs for points in a playoff game.

By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 13, 2003


TAMPA -- For a moment, Jaromir Jagr was 18 again.

Slicing down the right side of the ice, he carried the puck into the Tampa Bay zone, beat a defender and zipped toward the net -- just him and the goaltender.

Circle, swoop, flip.

It looked so easy.

Jagr's nifty goal less than five minutes into the first period lit a scoring fuse under the superstar forward, who had two goals and two assists in the Capitals' 6-3 victory. The difference between Sunday and Jagr's teenage years is that his once-flowing hair is shorter.

His memory, too.

"I don't remember, I just know I scored," Jagr, 31, said of the move he used to beat Nikolai Khabibulin. "I played like that when I was 18, when I had speed. It was a chance to go one-on-one and that's what I'm looking for, always."

Washington also got two goals and an assist from veteran wing Peter Bondra as the Capitals' big-name scorers delivered. Jagr and Bondra each matched career playoff highs for points in a game.

"That means headaches for the other team's defensive coach because they're on separate lines," Capitals coach Bruce Cassidy said. "And when those guys are scoring on separate lines, we're dangerous."

Jagr and Bondra each scored at even strength and assisted one another on power play goals. Jagr scored with a two-man advantage to make it 3-1 late in the first period and set up Michael Nylander's goal to make it 4-1 early in the second.

Bondra's second goal, which made it 5-2 early in the third, made a Lightning comeback unlikely. His quick wrist shot from a sharp angle went between Khabibulin's legs.

"It somehow went in," said Bondra, the Capitals' all-time leading scorer with 793 points. "It maybe surprised me a little bit, but we'll take it. That was a big goal for us because they had a lot of chances and if they scored, there would be a one-goal difference and we would have some drama."

The Lightning hoped to disrupt Jagr's rhythm with physical play, a strategy that worked well in the first game of the series, a 3-0 Washington victory. Game 2 was even more physical, but Jagr, who missed six games near the end of the regular season with an injured wrist, responded.

"He's one of the best players in the world," Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk said. "I've seen it often. He's going to find some room. We're not going to stop him, we're just trying to contain him."

Looking to take an early lead, the Lightning created several good scoring chances in the first few minutes. But goaltender Olaf Kolzig, aided once by the post, made key saves. When Jagr turned the tide, scoring on the Capitals' first good chance, it took the wind out of the Lightning.

The timeliness of the goal was not lost on Jagr. Not only did it put a charge in his team, but it also gave him a needed shot of confidence.

"Any guy, even if you're a goal scorer and score so many goals each year, you need the confidence to play good," said Jagr, who has 508 career goals. "That first goal was important for me."

Not to mention pretty.

"It was fun to watch," Bondra said. "To be on the bench and on the same team, it's amazing. That definitely was a big goal for us and we built on it."

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