WASHINGTON - (AP) - It was an early end that was long overdue.Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are on to the secondround of the playoffs, and they advanced without needing the fullseven games.
With fans emphatically declaring that "We are louder" thanthose at New York's Madison Square Garden, the Verizon Centerexhorted the Capitals to a Game 5 clincher Saturday, a 3-1 win overthe Rangers.
Mike Green scored a first-period, power-play goal before takingyet another blow to the head, Ovechkin scored one of hishighlight-reel goals in the second, and Alexander Semin tallied inthe third. Michal Neuvirth made 26 saves and had a shutout untilthe final minute as the top-seeded Capitals allowed only eightgoals in the series - two in three home wins.
The Capitals are moving on to the Eastern Conference semifinals,having won the first playoff series under Bruce Boudreau thatdidn't go the distance. He had led Washington through fourseven-game series - winning only one - since becoming coach in2007.
The Capitals hadn't won a series in fewer than seven games since1998, when they beat Buffalo 4-2 on the way to their onlyappearance in the Stanley Cup finals. Their last loss in fewer thanseven was to Tampa Bay in 2003.
While the players were intent on proving they can finish off anopponent, the fans were determined to win the shouting match withtheir New York counterparts. Rangers fans serenaded Boudreau with,"Can you hear us?" in Game 4 after he said the fans were louderin the nation's capital.
"Can you hear us?" goes without saying in the always sold outdin located in the city's Chinese quarter, so the Capitals fansalternated "Let's go Caps" with "We are louder" and held upsigns such as "No MSG in our Chinatown."
Wojtek Wolski scored in the waning seconds for the Rangers, whoended a season in which they barely made the playoffs as the No. 8seed. New York's offense was hardly one to be feared, and it wasfurther depleted by the absence of second-leading scorer RyanCallahan, who broke a leg in the final week of the regular season.