By Jenny Masters
David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and goaltender Tuukka Rask led the way as the Bruins eliminated the Washington Capitals in five games with a 3-1 victory.
It’s a third consecutive first-round exit for Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals since they won the Stanley Cup in 2018. This defeat comes after Cup-winning coach Peter Laviolette was brought in for an organization in win-now mode with Ovechkin in the last year of his contract at age 35 and opportunities running out.
While the Bruins joined the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Colorado Avalanche as the first teams to advance, the Capitals face a litany of questions this offseason about Ovechkin, center Evgeny Kuznetsov and the goaltending position at large.
“We just lost in a playoff series,” Ovechkin said. “Let’s talk about my contract and all those stuff later on.”
“It was tight series, interesting series,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. “It’s tough for us. It’s hard.”
“These games are fun,” Pastrnak said. “The feeling you get with the guys after the game in the locker room and the happiness like little kids, it’s something that you play the game for.”
Chants of “TUUKK!” emanated from a large group of black and gold-clad Boston fans who were part of the limited-capacity sellout crowd of 5,333. Those were occasionally interrupted by “We want the Cup!” — the trophy the Bruins last won a decade ago after a 39-year title drought.
They’re 12 wins away, thanks to their best players dominating in Game 5.
“Let’s face it: Our top guys came through,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.
Pastrnak made it look easy putting the puck behind his back and through his legs, assisted on Bergeron’s first goal and was part of an effort in front of Rask that kept most of the Capitals’ shots to the outside. Bergeron, who got the “C” when Zdeno Chara left to sign with Washington, beat Ilya Samsonov with a stoppable shot in the second and stunted a comeback bid with an unassisted goal in the third.
“That’s why you play the game: it’s the adrenaline and the feeling that you get,” said Bergeron, who has 24 points in potential clinching games throughout his career. “It’s always special. It’s always fun to be a part of it.”
The only shot that beat Rask was Conor Sheary hammering home his own rebound 11 seconds into the third period. That ended an even-strength goal drought of 147:44, but wasn’t enough to rally the Capitals, who outshot the Bruins 41-19 and had a would-be goal by Lars Eller with 5:37 remaining waved off for goaltender interference.
“I felt good the whole series,” Rask said. “This game today was probably the most chances and shots they had the whole series. That’s one of the reasons that it looked like I was in the zone.”
Boston won four in a row against Washington after losing the series opener in overtime. After eking out Game 2 in overtime and Game 3 in double overtime, the Bruins capitalized on an aging, banged-up opponent with few answers for their speed and skill.