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March 16. 2013 6:23PM

Bruins look strong in win over Caps


Bruins left wing Jay Pandolfo, left, high fives center Patrice Bergeron after Boston defeated the Washington Capitals, 4-1, Saturday at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
BOSTON - The Boston Bruins had plenty of good reasons to want to beat the Washington Capitals in a matinee on Saturday.

Remember, it was the Capitals who, on their last visit to TD Garden, knocked the Bruins out of the playoffs in the first round last spring, and it was the Caps who came back from an 0-3 deficit to beat Boston in Washington on March 5.

More? OK, the Bruins were coming off a poor performance in a victory over a floundering Florida team Thursday night, and this was the final home game before a season-high five-game trip that starts today against the Penguins.

It all resulted in a strong home effort in a 4-1 win that sent the struggling Caps to their fourth loss in five games.

The Bruins' so-called top line played like one, as Nathan Horton and David Krejci both had a goal and two assists, and Milan Lucic posted a career-high three assists.

Horton wasn't done with only scoring, completing his "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" with a fight in the final seconds of the second period as the Bruins made it 11-2-1 in their last 14 games.

They moved, at least temporarily, into first place in the Northeast Division (the Canadiens were playing at New Jersey at night).

Horton, who scored his first goal in nine games, No. 8 overall, also set up goals by linemate David Krejci (No. 7) and defenseman Andrew Ference (No. 1).

Rich Peverley then beat Michal Neuvirth off a scramble for a power play goal early in the third period. Krejci's assist on that goal was his 300th NHL point. It was Peverley's fourth goal, his first since moving to center after the injury to Chris Kelly.

The only goal allowed by Boston backup goalie Anton Khudobin (32 saves) was put in by his own team, also by the top Boston line.

Krejci tried to clear a puck in front of the net, but the puck hit the left skate of defenseman Johnny Boychuk and went past the surprised goalie.

Marcus Johansson, the last Cap to touch the puck, got credit for his second goal of the season, making it 2-1 before Ference scored later in the second period.

Boychuk even being out there for the period was a surprise after he hobbled to the bench and had to be helped down the runway to the locker room because of a left leg injury in the first period. He returned later in the period and got nicked again.

The Bruins lifted their record to 18-0 when holding the opposition to two goals or fewer, and killed two penalties to run their third streak of 20 straight kills or more this season to 25 in a row, with three more Saturday.

The game was chippy, with three fights breaking out, Washington's Matt Hendricks being involved in two of them.

Notes: The Bruins left after the game and visit Pittsburgh today to start the trip, while the Caps host Buffalo today and then hit the road for four, including two straight at Winnipeg. ... Boston signed winger Alexander Fallstrom, a Harvard product the club acquired in the Oct. 18, 2009, deal that sent Chuck Kobasew to Minnesota, to an entry level contract. Fallstrom had nine goals and 21 points in 32 games for Harvard this past season. ... Defenseman Adam McQuaid returned to the Bruins' lineup after missing a game because of an undisclosed injury. The Capitals' Jack Hillen returned to play for the first time since sustaining an apparent shoulder injury on opening night, and was victimized on the second goal. Washington, missing injured defenseman John Erskine for the fourth straight game, sent rookie Cameron Schilling to the minors. ... The Bruins wore St. Patrick's Day green jerseys during warmups. ... After Alex Ovechkin received criticism from TV analysts Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire, his first-year coach, Adam Oates rode to his defense, prompting Ovechkin, talking to the Washington Post, to say: "It's the most important thing that coach has my back. I don't care what fans, media guys want to say about my game. It's the most important thing what happens here in our family. It's good." ... The Bruins paid tribute to Oates, a former Bruin, during the first timeout, welcoming the new Hall of Famer back for his first game as an opposing head coach. He waved to the crowd.

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