On February 3, 1996, the Washington Capitals staged a thrilling third period comeback to earn a 6-5 overtime win over the New York Islanders before a sellout crowd at USAir Arena.
The Islanders started the evening's scoring at 9:36 of the first period on Niklas Andersson's shorthanded goal. The Islanders' Martin Straka scored to make it 2-0 New York at 14:03. Straka's goal prompted Capitals head coach Jim Schoenfeld to pull starting goaltender Jim Carey in favor of backup Olie Kolzig. Michal Pivonka tallied a shorthanded strike for Washington at 19:07 of the first period to halve the New York lead. Peter Bondra and Sylvain Cote collected the assists on Pivonka's seventh goal of the season. But just 14 seconds later, New York's Alexander Semak restored his team's two-goal lead with a power play marker. The Caps outshot New York 17-9 in the first period but left the ice trailing 3-1. On the season up to that point, Washington had been outscored by a combined 61-29 in the first period of its 51 games.
When New York's Todd Bertuzzi tallied at 7:41 of the second to give the Fishermen a 4-1 advantage, Schoenfeld again switched netminders, this time pulling Kolzig in favor of Carey. Kolzig allowed two goals on seven shots during his 14 minutes between the pipes. At 10:50 of the middle period, Bondra notched his 29th goal of the season to pull Washington to within a pair. Dale Hunter and Sergei Gonchar assisted on Bondra's goal. But Derek King scored on a New York power play at 15:32 to give the Isles a three-goal cushion once again. It was the Islanders' fifth goal on just 16 shots. The Capitals again outshot New York in the second, 14-8.
In the Washington locker room during the second intermission, Schoenfeld said not a single word. He walked in, approached the dry erase board and scrawled: "6-5 Caps in overtime."
The Caps took those words to heart. Bondra scored his second of the night and 30th of the season at 5:54 of the third on a Washington power play, Calle Johansson and Pivonka assisting. At 10:35, Bondra completed his hat trick with an even strength goal from Gonchar and Pivonka. Exactly two minutes later, Bondra scored his fourth goal of the night and his third in succession to bring the Caps even at 5-5. Pivonka and Joe Juneau assisted on the game-tying goal. The Capitals outshot the Isles 11-4 in the third.
Pivonka beat New York netminder Tommy Soderstrom at 1:21 of the overtime session on Washington's second shot of the extra period to complete Schoenfeld's prophecy. Bondra and Keith Jones assisted. Bondra set a career high for points in a game (six) that still stands as his personal best. The win was Washington's 14th come-from-behind triumph of the season. The Caps outshot New York 44-21 on the evening.
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