Bondra became the 37th player in league history to reach the 500-goal plateau, breaking a 1-1 tie early in the third period to lead the Chicago Blackhawks past the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1 on Friday night.
Signed by Chicago as a free agent Dec. 10, Bondra drove to the net and rammed a rebound of Jassen Cullimore’s shot from the left point past Jean-Sebastien Aubin 5:37 into the third.
“It wasn’t like I was sure what I was supposed to do when I scored,” said Bondra, who scored his second goal in six games since joining the Blackhawks. “I felt like it was my first goal.
“Should I be jumping up and down or too excited?”
More importantly for the Blackhawks, Bondra’s score turned out to be the game-winner in a physical, up-tempo match against a fellow NHL Original Six opponent.
Bryan Smolinski, who had a short-handed goal, and Brent Seabrook scored for Chicago, which improved to 8-2-3 under head coach Denis Savard.
“I’m happy I can score a big goal and we can win a big game,” Bondra added. “The guys had talked about 500 for two or three games, but it didn’t take the attention away from what we were supposed to accomplish tonight.”
Savard, who had 473 career goals – 377 with Chicago – called both Bondra’s accomplishment and the Blackhawks win “awesome.” Bondra, in his 16th season, played 13-plus years with Washington. Last year he skated for Atlanta.
‘It was a pretty great achievement,” Savard said. “He played well all night and he’s getting his legs back.
“I’ve been around this team a long time. This performance tops any of them in a long, long time.”
John Pohl scored a power-play goal for Toronto, which had eight man-advantage opportunities compared to three for Chicago.
Blackhawks goalie Nikolai Khabibulin blocked 25 shots. He twice stopped Toronto’s leading goal scorer, Darcy Tucker, point-blank – including on a first-period breakaway.
Aubin made 22 saves.
Toronto centre Michael Peca seriously injured his right knee in the first and had to be helped from the ice.
Peca collided with Chicago defenceman Jim Vandermeer in the Toronto zone with 5:17 left in the first. Vandermeer received a major penalty for kneeing and a game misconduct.
“He’s in quite a bit of pain,” Toronto coach Paul Maurice said. “We’re not going to know until the doctors get a better look inside.
“This is not day-to-day. It’s a bad injury.”
Peca left the Maple Leafs dressing room on crutches, wearing an air cast.
A 12-year veteran, Peca has four goals and 11 assists in 35 games this season.
“It was just one of those things,” Vandermeer said. “I was planted, legs together.
“I think it was just him dodging out of the way.”
Toronto took a 1-0 lead when Pohl scored on a power play with 4:01 left in the first.
After taking a cross-ice pass from Tomas Kaberle, Pohl fired a shot from the left that beat Khabibulin between the pads.
Smolinski’s short-handed goal with 8:57 left in the second tied it 1-1.
After taking a pass from Denis Arkhipov, Smolinski beat Aubin on the stick side with a shot from the left circle.
After Bondra gave Chicago a 2-1 lead, Seabrook made it 3-1 with 2:44 left. He scored on a shot from the right point that deflected off the stick of Toronto’s Chad Kilger.
Notes: The Maple Leafs and Blackhawks faced each other for the first time in Chicago since Feb. 12, 2003 . . . Toronto D Wade Belak was accidentally cut above the nose by the stick of Chicago’s Patrick Sharp with 6:48 left in the first. He skated off the ice and no penalty was assessed on the play . . . Chicago LW Karl Stewart suffered a leg injury in the first period and didn’t return . . . Blackhawks C Jeff Hamilton sat out with the flu . . . Maple Leafs LW Alexei Ponikarovsky missed the game with a separated shoulder and C Kyle Wellwood sat out with a hip flexor injury . . . After the game, Chicago recalled F Troy Brouwer from Norfolk of the AHL.