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Caps use defense to advance

WASHINGTON -- This hardly is the way Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals were expected to succeed when this roster was being put together.

Doesn't matter one bit, of course.

After year upon year of underachieving in the postseason, the seventh-seeded Capitals finally are overachievers: They're headed to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs after getting past the Boston Bruins in overtime of Game Seven, the first time in franchise history Washington eliminated the reigning Stanley Cup champion.

It's also the first time Washington won a Game Seven on the road. Indeed, they'd only been 2-7 in such winners-take-all contests anywhere.

"That wasn't pretty," Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said afterward. "That was beautiful."

What's changed is that Washington no longer relies on Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and its other playmakers up front to carry them. Adopting new coach Dale Hunter's defense-first strategy, and with team captain Ovechkin spending plenty of time on the bench, the Capitals are winning ugly.

"I think winning any way you can is what playoff hockey is about," Leonsis said.

Sure took a while for that lesson to sink in.

Under previous coach Bruce Boudreau and his wide-open system, and with Ovechkin scoring seemingly at will en route to a pair of NHL MVP awards, the Capitals dominated during the regular season, then went home earlier than expected in the playoffs. Losing in the first or second round of the postseason to lower-seeded teams was not what Leonsis or Washington's fans were hoping for.

They managed to come out on top against the No. 2-seeded Bruins in the first NHL playoff series to feature seven one-goal games. Four went to overtime; two others were decided with less than two minutes left in the third period.

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