Washington Capitals: A look back at Peter Bondra’s career

Before Alex Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals featured a gifted goal scorer by the name of Peter Bondra.

Peter Bondra was one of the biggest faces of Washington Capitals hockey throughout the 1990’s and early part of the new century. The team drafted him in the eighth round at 156th overall in the 1990 NHL Draft. Bondra played for HC Kosice of the Czechoslovakian League for four seasons prior to his draft selection, winning the league championship in 1988.

Bondra was 22 at the time of being drafted and made his league debut in that 1990-91 season. He scored just 12 goals in his rookie season. There were no sophomore slumps for Bondra his next season, scoring 28 goals and assists for 56 points.

Bondra’s third season saw a spike in his scoring with 37 goals and 85 points, leading the team in both categories to go along with 48 assists in 1992-93. Bondra earned his first All Star Game selection that season.

Bondra’s most memorable game came in his fourth season. On February 5, 1994 which was 25 years ago this year, Bondra had a five-goal game against the Tampa Bay Lightning which included four goals in the opening period. Bondra finished with 24 goals that season.

The 1994-95 season was shorter due to a lockout, spanning 47 games. Despite the season being 35 games shorter, Bondra not only saw a 10-goal improvement but led the league with 34 goals. Bondra built on that successful season with 52 and 48 goals, respectively, the next two seasons.

The 1997-98 season was a whirlwind of excitement and emotion. The Capitals were saying goodbye to their Landover home the Capital Centre and said hello to MCI Center, a downtown D.C. destination (now Capital One Arena).

Bondra led the league with 52 goals and 13 game-winner goals. Bondra added seven goals and five assists in the playoffs in the Capitals run to the Stanley Cup Final. In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, it was Bondra’s goal in overtime that was the difference in a 4-3 Capitals win to give them a 2-1 series lead.

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Bondra’s numbers dipped the next two seasons from 31 to 21 goals the next two years but rebounded in the 2000-01 season not only with 45 goals but leading the NHL in power play tallies with 22. Bondra led the league in power play goals the next season with 17 while adding 39 total.

Bondra spent the next season and a half in Washington before he was traded to the Ottawa Senators for Brooks Laich and a second rounder in February of 2004 when the Capitals were in the midst of a dismal season.

In 14 seasons with the Capitals, Bondra suited up for 861 games and scored 472 goals and added 353 assists for 825 points. Bondra scored 137 goals on the power play and 32 shorthanded (a Capitals record) along with 73 game-winners and 19 hat tricks.

Even though Bondra and the Capitals fell short of the Cup to  a dominant Detroit Red Wings team in 1998, he was the face of some exciting Capitals teams and helped put fans in the stands in the early days of their current building’s occupancy. Bondra no doubt was important to the Capitals and deserves to one day have his number retired.