BOSTON — The regular season wasn’t much of a struggle for the Boston Bruins, and neither was their first-round playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings.
Tuukka Rask made 31 saves Saturday, and the defending Eastern Conference champions eliminated the Red Wings with a 4-2 victory in Game 5.
After finishing the regular season with the best record in the NHL, the Bruins advanced to the conference semifinals against the Montreal Canadiens.
“That series was much tougher than maybe the results showed,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who gave Boston the lead for good with 4 seconds left in the second period. “I think that we handled it well, we came into this series ready and we got the job done.”
Loui Eriksson opened the scoring for Boston, and Chara’s goal on a 4-on-3 advantage snapped a 1-1 tie. Milan Lucic also scored, and Jarome Iginla added an empty-netter.
Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg scored and Jonas Gustavsson stopped 29 shots for Detroit. The Red Wings scored only six goals in the five-game series.
The Bruins won it all in 2011 and returned to the Stanley Cup finals last year before they were eliminated when the Chicago Blackhawks scored two goals in 17 seconds in the final 76 seconds of Game 6. Boston seems on its way for another long playoff run this year, finishing the regular season with the best record in the NHL.
PENGUINS 3, BLUE JACKETS 1
In Pittsburgh, Jussi Jokinen scored the go-ahead goal in the third period and the Penguins topped Columbus to take a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference playoff series.
Chris Kunitz had a power-play goal and Kris Letang scored into an empty net for Pittsburgh, which could close out the series Monday during Game 6 in Columbus.
It hasn’t been easy for the Penguins, a team considered by many a Stanley Cup contender. Columbus, which began the series searching for its first playoff win in franchise history, twice rallied to stun Pittsburgh.
Boone Jenner scored the lone goal for Columbus.
Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury recovered from a game-changing gaffe in Game 4 for the victory on Saturday, making 23 saves. Fleury is 4-1 in his past five games after a playoff overtime loss.
CAPITALS: General manager George McPhee and coach Adam Oates lost their jobs Saturday after the team failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
McPhee’s contract was up. Oates was fired with one season left on his three-year contract.
This season, Washington finished with the ninth-most points in the Eastern Conference, one spot out of a playoff berth.
“I feel a change is needed in order to get us back to being a top echelon team that competes for the Stanley Cup,” Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said, according to the team's news release announcing the moves.
Ovechkin has won three league MVP awards and again led the NHL in scoring this season with 51 goals, but the Capitals haven’t made it past the second round of the playoffs during the Russian wing’s career.
The Capitals reached the Stanley Cup finals in 1998, McPhee's first year on the job, and were swept by the Detroit Red Wings. Later, McPhee oversaw a “rebuild” ordered by Leonsis, including jettisoning top players with big contracts such as Jaromir Jagr.
While McPhee eventually built a young roster filled with offensive stars, he never placed as much emphasis on constructing a rugged, defensive-minded blue line crop. He hired a succession of coaches with zero previous NHL experience running a team, including Glen Hanlon, Bruce Boudreau, Dale Hunter and Oates.
Led by Ovechkin, the Capitals produced terrific regular-season results for a half-dozen seasons, without similar success in the postseason. Four years ago, Washington won the Presidents’ Trophy for having the most points during the season, then lost in the first round of the playoffs to the eighth-seeded Montreal Canadiens.
“George has been a terrific, longtime executive for our franchise, and I’m grateful for his commitment to the Capitals organization for the past 17 years,” Leonsis said.
“Under his leadership, the Capitals won seven division titles, twice were the top team in the Eastern Conference, earned a Presidents’ Trophy and competed in the playoffs 10 times,” Leonsis continued. “He was a highly effective manager who is extremely well regarded within our organization and around the NHL.”
The Capitals went 65-48-17 under Oates in his two seasons.
In 2012-13, they reached the playoffs before losing in the first round to the New York Rangers in seven games.
“We are also appreciative of Adam’s efforts and thank him for his devotion, work ethic and contributions to the Capitals the past two seasons,” Leonsis said. “He is a smart, tactical coach who improved the performance of several of our players. He is a Hall of Fame player who we believe will be a longtime coach in the NHL.”