Twenty-five years ago today, Caps winger Peter Bondra scored five goals in an NHL game, becoming just the second Washington player ever to achieve the feat. I spent a few hours watching a replay of that game and reading about the feat, and here are some gleanings I can share with you from that night.
The Caps faced the Tampa Bay Lightning at the USAir Arena in the Feb. 5, 1994 game. For the Caps, it was the final game of a four-game "homestand," if you want to call it that - the second of those four games was a "neutral site" tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers in Cleveland on Feb. 2.
Washington was coming off a humbling 4-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens the night before, so the Caps were playing rare home games on back-to-back nights.
Jim Schoenfeld was behind the bench for Washington; he had just taken over for Terry Murray just over a week earlier on Jan. 27. Schoenfeld was 3-2 in five games as the Caps' bench boss going into that Feb. 5 game.
After leading the Caps with 37 goals in 1992-93, Bondra entered that Feb. 5 game with just 14 goals on the season and three in his previous 18 games.
Since taking over the coaching reins, Schoenfeld had been bugging Bondra to change his stick. After the 5-goal game, the bench boss asked Bondra if he had changed his stick yet.
"No," was Bondra's reply, according to the Feb. 7 edition of The Baltimore Sun. "I brought new hands."
The hat trick was the second of Bondra's career; he finished his Capitals career with 19 of them.
The hat trick was a natural hat trick; Bondra scored three goals in a span of 2:06, still the fastest three goals in franchise history. He scored four goals in 4:12, still the fastest four goals in franchise history. Bondra also holds the club mark for fastest five goals at 24:46.
After the game, goal judge Jimmy Wiseman came down to the Caps' locker room with a stack of hats retrieved from the ice after Bondra's third goal. Washington defenseman Al Iafrate laid claim to one of the lids, a black wide-brimmed cowboy hat.
"I'll take that one," said Iafrate, according to the Feb. 7, 1994 edition of The Washington Post. "It almost hit me right in the face."
Dale Hunter and Dmitri Khristich were Bondra's linemates that night. Here's a Bondra quote from the Feb. 7, 1994 edition of The Baltimore Sun on Hunter: "It is Dale Hunter who makes my job easy," said Bondra. "Dale is everywhere on the ice. He is always helping me out, giving me the puck. I am getting great passes all night.
"And when I make a mistake, he covers it. And when I get hit, he comes to help me out."
Roman Hamrlik was a defenseman on that Lightning team, as was Joe Reekie. Calle Johansson and Alan May were on the ice for the Caps that night.
Don Beaupre started in goal for Washington, Daren Puppa for the Lightning. Puppa left the game after the first period because of a "strained back;" he might have incurred it on the futile two-pad stack bid he made to stop Bondra's fourth goal at 18:56 of the first.
Ex-Cap Shawn Chambers scored the game's first goal on a Lightning power play. Bondra's first goal came just 27 seconds later.
The first goal: Sylvain Cote got a shot from the right point on net. Puppa made the stop with Hunter parked on the doorstep. Hunter got a small piece of the rebound, and Bondra potted it - roofing a wrist shot - from just above the goal line near the right post. It came at 14:44 with Hunter and Cote drawing the assists.
The second goal: Shortly after the center-ice face-off, Khristich chipped a loose puck from the neutral zone toward the Tampa Bay end. Bondra seemed to anticipate it, crossing the line almost ahead of the puck and getting to it well ahead of any Lightning defender. Puppa initially made a charge out of the crease toward the puck before realizing he had no hope of arriving before Bondra. Puppa tried to get back, but instead lost his balance and flopped near the bottom of the left circle, enabling Bondra calmly skate around him and slide it into the yawning cage. It came at 14:59 - just 15 seconds after the first - with a single assist from Khristich.
The third goal: Hamrlik hooked Bondra in the slot to deny a glorious scoring chance, and to put Washington on the power play. Seven seconds after Hamrlik was seated, Bondra had his hat trick. Hunter won the left-circle draw to Kevin Hatcher at the left point. Hatcher passed to Khristich on the left half-wall. Khristich fed Hunter down low, just off the left post. Hunter likely could have buried it himself; he would have had a good look at some net from where he was. But he threaded a perfect pass through the crease to Bondra for an easy tap-in. The third goal came at 16:50 from Hunter and Khristich.
The fourth goal: With the two teams playing 4-on-4 hockey late in the first, Hunter skated the puck up the middle through neutral ice. He fed Bondra near the Tampa Bay line, and Bondra put on a burst to blow by Lightning defenseman Chris Joseph. Bondra drove in, sold Puppa on a far side shot, and hit the brakes just as Puppa went into two-pad stack mode. Bondra flipped it over a prone Puppa from the top of the paint. The fourth goal came at 18:56 of the first, from Hunter and Hatcher.
The fifth goal: Caps defenseman Shawn Anderson skated the puck down the left side, dropping it for Khristich and then heading to the crease. Khristich threaded a beautiful pass through defenseman Marc Bergevin's skates and back to Anderson as Anderson arrived near the paint. Anderson then one-touched it across to a driving Bondra, who tapped it in.
Bondra scored his five goals on seven shots. Almost five years later to the day (Feb. 3, 1999), Bondra scored four goals in a 10-1 win over the Lightning at MCI Center (now Capital One Arena). Adam Oates had three assists in that game for Washington.
This is how the Caps' lines and pairs looked on Feb. 5, 1994:
After the third goal, Lightning television play-by-play man John Kelly said, "The score really is Bondra 3, the Lightning 1."