Rapid Reaction: Bruins 4, Capitals 1

BOSTON -- Bruins forward Nathan Horton provided a Gordie Howe hat trick in Boston's 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.

CapitalsBruinsHorton scored a goal, added two assists and got into a fight to help the Bruins improve to 19-4-3. It was Horton's first three-point game since Jan. 5, 2012, in a 9-0 win over the Calgary Flames at the Garden.

"When he's on top of his game, we see [what happens] tonight. I thought he started coming around last game, the way he skated, you could see that his game was turning and going in the right direction. Like I said, you want to keep that line going the way they have been tonight because they're a big asset to our hockey club," Bruins coach Claude Julien said.

In fact, Boston's top line finally provided an onslaught of offense Saturday.

Along with Horton's three points, linemate David Krejci scored a goal and added two assists, while Milan Lucic provided a career-best three assists. Andrew Ference and Rich Peverley also scored goals for the Bruins.

Boston goaltender Anton Khudobin made 32 saves to improve his record to 5-2-0.

The Bruins gained an early lead on Horton's goal at 14:12 of the first period. The Bruins were on the forecheck when Lucic created a heads-up play. Instead of using his body to apply a check, he played the puck and gained control behind the Washington net. He made the centering pass to Horton, who blasted a one-timer from the slot past Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth for a 1-0 lead.

Lucic and Horton exchanged a huge high-five after the goal. It was Horton's first goal since Feb. 28 versus Ottawa.

"Great pass," Horton said. "Guys are scared of him and they give him the puck. He has great vision. He saw me up in the slot there, through a couple of guys, and a great pass."

Boston's top line continued its offensive prowess.

As a result of another sustained forecheck, Krejci gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead at 17:15. He intercepted an attempted breakout pass by the Capitals' Mike Ribeiro and beat Neuvirth.

Washington got its goal at 1:24 of the second period. Krejci had control of the puck and tried to clear it from the slot area, but the puck ricocheted off Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk and past Khudobin to cut Washington's deficit to 2-1. The Capitals' Marcus Johansson was credited with the tally.

Ference notched his first goal of the season, a sniper-like snap shot at 8:02 of the second period to give Boston a 3-1 advantage. The goal was the end result of a perfect passing play with assists by Horton and Krejci. Ference's shot from the left faceoff circle beat Neuvirth to the high glove side to give Boston another two-goal lead.

The Bruins added to their cushion early in the third period when Peverley scored a power-play goal at 2:41 for a 4-1 lead. Lucic and Krejci assisted on the goal during a scramble in front of the Washington net.

SAVE OF THE GAME: With the Bruins holding a 2-1 lead in the second period, defenseman Adam McQuaid was called for roughing and Washington went on the power play. The Capitals quickly gained control and Washington's Nicklas Backstrom had a point-blank scoring opportunity, but Khudobin made a sprawling glove save to maintain the one-goal lead.

"I thought he was really, really good," Julien said of the goalie's overall performance." I think everybody's going to agree with that. He made especially that big save in the second when he stretched his arm out, bad bounce that came right out to them, and he was really good. I thought he made some big saves with a lot of screens, a lot of traffic, yet he still found pucks."

GLORIOUS RETURN: After missing a game with an upper-body injury, Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid returned to the lineup. Late in the third period, as teammate Shawn Thornton was trying to tempt the Capitals' Matt Hendricks to drop the gloves, the Washington forward instead jumped McQuaid, who was standing nearby. McQuaid handled himself just fine in the tussle. Thornton was given two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.

MILESTONE: With his assist on the Bruins' fourth goal of the game, Krejci recorded his 300th career NHL point. He now has 88 goals and 212 assists for 300 points in 403 career games with the Bruins.

DROP 'EM: Boston held a 3-1 lead in the closing seconds of the second period when the Bruins' Brad Marchand and the Capitals' Mike Ribeiro dropped the gloves. Marchand got the best of the former Montreal Canadien. Seconds later, Horton and the Capitals' Matt Hendricks went toe-to-toe. Horton already had three points in the game and was livid that Hendricks jumped him.