WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals have skated into unfamiliar territory. They have finally finished a series early, earning a bunch of days off during the playoffs.
Ovechkin quickly raced past and around defenseman Marc Staal to score the game's highlight goal in the second period. In the process, the Capitals made short work of the New York Rangers, beating them 3-1 Saturday to win the first-round series in five games.
With a win today against Philadelphia, the Buffalo Sabres would face the Capitals in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
"We've never done it before," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I'll have to give my head a shake when I wake up [today] and wonder where we're supposed to be playing."
Boudreau had led the Capitals through four playoff series since becoming coach in 2007, and all four had gone seven games. Three were won by the other team, including a first-round defeat to the Montreal Canadiens last year after Washington took a 3-1 lead.
"Last year, when we had the lead 3-1, we thought it was over, and it was not over," Ovechkin said. "We relaxed. Right now, everybody focused and nobody relaxed."
The three other Eastern Conference series will all need at least six games to complete, giving Washington time to take a breather while waiting to find out the next opponent. The Capitals hadn't won a series in fewer than seven games since 1998, when they beat Buffalo 4-2 on the way to their only appearance in the Stanley Cup finals. Their last loss in fewer than seven was to Tampa Bay in 2003.
"It couldn't have gone too much better than the way it did," defenseman Karl Alzner said. "We said to ourselves we wanted to try and win a series, if we can, in four or five and get as much rest as possible -- because you definitely feel the effects through a seven-game series."
Mike Green and Alexander Semin also scored for Washington. Green seemed to be OK after taking another puck to the head. Michal Neuvirth made 26 saves and had a shutout until the final minute as the more defensive-minded Capitals allowed only eight goals in the series -- and just two in their three home wins.
While Washington's players were intent on proving they can finish off an opponent, its fans were determined to win the shouting match with their New York counterparts. Rangers fans serenaded Boudreau with, "Can you hear us?" in Game Four after he said the fans were louder in the nation's capital.
No doubt the dispute will linger over whose building is louder, but the more important argument has been firmly settled: The team from Washington is better.
Wojtek Wolski scored the lone goal in the waning seconds for the Rangers, who barely squeezed into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed with a dearth of skill players further depleted by the absence of second-leading scorer Ryan Callahan. Callahan broke a leg in the final week of the regular season.
Bruins break through at home
BOSTON -- Nathan Horton scored at 9:03 of the second overtime to give the Boston Bruins a 2-1 win on Saturday night and a 3-2 lead over the Montreal Canadiens in their first-round playoff series.
Montreal goalie Carey Price stopped Andrew Ference's wrist shot from 30 feet but couldn't control the rebound. Horton then put his second goal of the playoffs into the open right side of the net.
It was Boston's second overtime win in three days, including a 5-4 victory on Thursday night. It also was the first win by a home team in the series.
Stamkos leads Lightning rout
PITTSBURGH -- Steven Stamkos scored the first two playoff goals of his NHL career and Tampa Bay emphatically avoided elimination by routing Pittsburgh, 8-2, in Game Five of the first-round series.
Stamkos' 96 goals over the last two seasons lead the NHL, but he had only one assist over the first four games of the series. He had three points on Saturday.
The Lightning set a franchise record for goals in a road playoff game and handed the Penguins their worst home playoff loss.