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Washington Capitals fire Bruce Boudreau, hire Dale Hunter as new head coach

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The Washington Capitals have fired head coach Bruce Boudreau, the team announced Monday.

Former Capitals great Dale Hunter was named as Boudreau's replacement, and he will make his debut behind the bench on Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues.

"The reason for change is we weren't winning," Capitals general manager George McPhee said. "The issue was we weren't playing well."

Boudreau went 201-88-40 in more than four seasons as the Washington's head coach; a tenure that was marked by significant regular season success and consistent early playoff exits.

However, after opening this season with seven straight wins, the Capitals have won just five of their last 15 games. Washington sits in 2nd place in the Southeast Division with a 12-9-1 record.

When asked what need to change, Alex Ovechkin said, “We just have to win games. It's as simple as that.”

Despite his team's prowess during the regular season, which included winning the President's Trophy with the NHL's best record in 2009-10, the Capitals won just two playoff series in their four playoff appearances under Boudreau.

McPhee says that at this point, the players had simply stopped responding to their coach.

"We had too many players that weren't playing well, and this is the solution," McPhee said. "We've got their attention now."

The playoff losses included a first-round defeat at the hands of the 8th-seeded Montreal Canadiens during that 2009-10 season. The Capitals advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season, but were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

"I always will be thankful for Bruce’s time with the Capitals and will remember him fondly," Capitals owner Ted Leonsis said on his blog. "He is a great coach who I’m confident will land another spot in the NHL."

McPhee told the Washington Times that Boudreau's three assistant coaches, Bob Woods, Dean Evason and Blaine Forsythe, will remain in their duties.

Dale Hunter, 51, becomes the 15th head coach in franchise history. After playing 19 season in the NHL with Quebec, Washington and Colorado, Hunter led the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League to the highest honor in Canadian junior hockey, the Memorial Cup, in 2004-05.

Hunter, who captained the Capitals from 1994-1999, had his number retired by the team in 2000. He recorded 181 goals, 375 assists and 2,003 penalty minutes for the team during his years with the Capitals. That final total makes him the franchise's all-time leader in penalty minutes.

'I've been cheering for the Caps since I left here," Hunter says. "We're going to be a hard team to play against."

He also helped lead Washington to their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 1998, when the Capitals were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.

"I think Bruce did a great job," McPhee said. "His time is up."

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