The Washington Capitals fashioned another first-period deficit last night, despite outplaying the New York Islanders. They dominated the second period, but trailed by three. Then came the third period. Then came Peter Bondra.

Bondra scored three third-period goals -- giving him four on the night -- then passed to Michal Pivonka for the game-winner 1 minute 21 seconds into overtime as the Capitals rallied for a 6-5 victory before a hat-throwing, sellout crowd of 18,130 at USAir Arena.

Bondra had a career-high six-point effort and Pivonka had a five-point game, totaling two goals and three assists.

"Great comeback -- the whole team," said Bondra, wearing one of his trophies, a San Franciso 49ers cap. "We were down 5-2, but we still played a pretty good game. We had a lot of chances, lot of shots. We just told ourselves to never stop."

After Bondra forced overtime with three third-period goals -- all assisted by Pivonka -- the duo beat gallant Islanders goaltender Tommy Soderstrom, who withstood a 44-shot barrage.

Bondra passed from the right corner to the crease. "I was a little bit late on the pass from Peter," Pivonka said. "But I was fortunate enough to pick it up on my skate. I just backhanded it by the goalie."

Instantly, Coach Jim Schoenfeld raced off the bench, across the ice and into the dressing room. Normally, he walks off gingerly, so as not to fall. "Excess emotion" was how he described his mad dash.

Before last night, Bondra hadn't scored in four games. "Tonight I said, Keep it simple. Make a shot,' " he said. For the game, he put nine shots on goal.

Bondra scored his first 10:50 into the second period to make it 4-2 Islanders. Less than five minutes later, Derek King restored the New York's three-goal lead.

In the third, Bondra scored on a power play at the 5:54 mark, making the Capitals 1 for 9 with a man advantage against the NHL's worst penalty killers.

Five minutes later, at 10:35, Bondra had his third goal -- and the hats came raining onto the ice. Exactly two minutes later, with the fans in an uproar, Bondra made it a 5-5 game.

Bondra now has 32 goals (in only 40 games), ninth in the league. He has two hat tricks this season (five lifetime) and his four-goal outburst -- the seventh in the NHL this season -- evoked memories of his franchise-record-tying five-goal binge almost exactly two years earlier -- on Feb. 5, 1994, vs. Tampa Bay.

The Capitals (25-21-5) won for the fourth time in five nights, a fine sendoff for their last long trip of the season: three games in four nights in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver beginning on Wednesday. The Islanders (13-28-8) have lost six straight.

The Capitals trailed 3-1 after one period and now have been outscored 61-29 in the first period this season. They again yielded a goal on one of their opposition's first three shots, and then the Islanders also connected on their fifth and ninth shots.

The first two goals came against Jim Carey, who was pulled in favor of Olaf Kolzig. He was then pulled for Carey after allowing the next two, which gave the Islanders a 4-1 lead.

Despite that, Schoenfeld said: "we were playing well. Jimmy and Olie had a tough time of it tonight, but the team was playing well. We were creating a lot of chances."

Said Islanders Coach Mike Milbury: "I saw {the rally} coming."

The Capitals had nine power plays, but they failed on the first eight.

"We just said, "We got to keep doing the same thing, but we got to put the pucks into the net," said Pivonka, who now has eight goals and 46 points, second on the club to Bondra's 52.

"Peter and Michal, they just had themselves a great game," Schoenfeld said. "And they had a lot of chance that didn't go in, too. You could see Peter was skating right off the bat. I knew he was going to create a ton of chances tonight. He had that fire. He hasn't been feeling well lately. Tonight, I guess he was feeling well."

Capitals Notes: Fans who couldn't make it to tonight's game may exchange their tickets for the March 19 game against the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. . . . Calle Johansson played in his 500th game as a Capital. . . .

Dale Hunter is tied with former Capital Scott Stevens for the most penalty minutes in club history, 1,630. . . .

Pat Peake (flu, shoulder) was scratched for the third straight game. Denis Chasse, acquired last week for minor leaguer Rob Pearson, was scratched for the first time in three games as a Capital. Kevin Kaminski, who missed two contests because of a groin injury, was in the lineup. . . .

Islanders left wing Wendel Clark remained in Toronto to have his back examined (spasms). . . . New York decided to use Soderstrom and start rookie Eric Fichaud at home tonight vs. the Dallas Stars. CAPTION: The Capitals' Peter Bondra celebrates after scoring at 10:50 of the second period, but for him, the fun was just getting started; he scored three more in the third. CAPTION: Peter Bondra (12) hugs Michal Pivonka after Pivonka took Bondra's pass and turned it into the game-winning goal in overtime, finishing a comeback from 5-2.