Bonzai! Bondra Shines in Classic Alumni Game - NBC4 Washington

Bonzai! Bondra Shines in Classic Alumni Game

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    Bonzai! Bondra Shines in Classic Alumni Game
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    PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 31: Paul Coffey #77 of the Pittsburgh Penguins defends against Peter Bondra #12 of the Washington Capitals during the 2011 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game on December 31, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

    The Capitals alumni team held its own Friday morning against Mario Lemieux and his gaggle of Hall of Famers outside in a warmup game for the Winter Classic.

    How did they do it? Peter Bondra revealed the secret after the game.

    "Our system was 1 and 4," Bonda said with a smile outside his team's makeshift locker room at Heinz Field. "We created a system where the younger player would forecheck and the other four guys would stay back. It actually paid off on the last shift."

    That last shift ended with a vintage clutch goal by Bondra.

    With goalie Don Beaupre pulled and the Caps down 5-4, Bondra found himself alone with the puck in the high slot and blasted a shot past goalie Frank Pietrangelo to tie it up at 5 with 45 seconds to go.

    Bonzai!

    "The puck was laying there and I just closed my eyes and shot it," he said.

    There was no overtime in this two-period affair, nor was there a shootout -- much to the chagrin of the fans in attendance who wanted to see Lemieux score a goal. He did pick up two assists and at times looks like the Super Mario of old with effortless stickhandling through the Caps' defense.

    It was old-time hockey indeed, complete with the hooking and holding associated with many Patrick Division grudge matches between these two teams.

    Bondra said he wasn't sure what to expect when the game started. But the "veterans" on the team set the pace.

    "The old guys brought it up," Bondra said. "There was hooking, old-time hockey, and chopping -- one guy broke his stick on my leg."

    The game was tied at three after the first period on Capitals goals by Alan May, Paul Mulvey and Mark Lofthouse against Penguins goalie Gilles Meloche.

    The Penguins' goals were scored against Don Beaupre by Robbie Brown (minus the windmill celebration), Rod Buskas and Craig Simpson.

    Brown later appeased the fans during a break by doing the post-goal windmill he's famous for during the intermission.

    Mulvey put the Caps in front 4-3 in the second half after some nice effort by Dean Evason to take the puck away from Bryan Trottier.

    But the Pens scored the next two to take the lead on goals by Jay Caufield and then Ron Francis, who converted on the power play.

    "It was the coolest thing," Capitals color man Craig Laughlin said when the penalty was called on the Capitals, "because on the bench one of their players yelled out 'Hall of Famers.' I looked over and saw Bob Errey and said, 'What are you doing on the ice?'"

    Errey knew his role a eventually came off. Francis, a Hall of Famer, eventually scored, with assists to Lemieux and Larry Murphy -- also Hall of Famers.

    But Bondra's late goal tied it up, ruining the Pens' party in Pittsburgh.

    Bondra looked like he could still give it a go at the NHL level -- unlike many of his teammates. But the former sniper knows that he's a former sniper for a reason.

    "You almost feel like you can get back in the game," Bondra said. "But tomorrow when I get up reality will be a little different. I'll get back to my old life."