BOSTON - Washington's lone losing streak of the season didn't last long.
Evgeny Kuznetsov had a goal and an assist and the Capitals took over the top record in the NHL with a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.
Washington scored the first two goals and Braden Holtby stopped a dozen shots in the third period as the Bruins attempted to rally.
"We came out better right away," said Marcus Johansson, whose goal in the third period was the difference. "When we get the lead and play the way we can then I think we are really really tough to beat and get something going on."
The Capitals were coming off a 5-4 shootout loss in Columbus on Saturday, two nights after a 4-2 loss at Carolina. It was the first time the Capitals lost back-to-back games this season, although they still got a point in the shootout loss.
"We talk about the loss in the second game," Kuznetsov said. "No way we are going to lose today."
Andre Burakovsky also scored for the Capitals, who entered the game trailing Dallas by a point for the NHL lead. The Stars' 6-2 loss to the Rangers in New York on Tuesday gave Washington the opportunity to climb on top and the Capitals took advantage despite a quiet night from captain Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin had just two shots and remained at 496 career goals. Ovechkin's next milestone will come soon enough for the Capitals, who at 29-7-3 continued their roll through the regular season with their fourth straight win over Boston.
"It's a good spot to be because they challenge you every night," said Holtby, who finished with 25 saves. "I mean we have been in the position where we have played those top teams during the regular season and you always get up a little bit more for it because you want to test yourself and I think that's good for us."
Patrice Bergeron had a goal and assist and Loui Eriksson also scored for Boston.
Tuukka Rask made 26 saves for the Bruins, who remained one win shy of their 3,000th regular-season victory in franchise history. Boston has lost two straight and five of six.
"We have to find ways to generate more goals and more chances. I thought it was a much better effort but still not good enough," Bergeron said. "The standings are way too tight to let games like that slip by."
Boston outshot Washington 13-6 in the third period and pulled Rask at the end for an extra skater, but Bergeron's goal in the third was the only shot to get past Holtby in the period.
"It was a weird game," Rask said. "It looked like there were some moments where we had a lot of emotion but then at times it was kind of just not a whole lot going on out there."
Kuznetsov assisted when Burakovsky scored with 4:59 left in the first period to put Washington up 1-0. with an assist from Kuznetsov.
Kuznetsov gave Washington a 2-0 lead on a power-play goal with 7:20 left in the second.
Bergeron and Brett Connolly assisted when Eriksson scored Boston's first goal and cut Washington's lead to 2-1 with 4:34 left in the second period.
Bergeron's shot with 8:08 remaining deflected off the stick of Justin Williams and beat Holtby to pull Boston within 3-2.
The Capitals had taken a 3-1 lead 1:11 earlier in the third period when Johansson poked in a rebound off a slap shot by Dmitry Orlov.
Bruins defenceman Adam McQuaid was injured when he was checked headfirst into the glass by Zach Sill early in the second period. McQuaid was facing the boards when Sill arrived and the hit drove McQuaid's forehead into the glass. McQuaid stayed down for several minutes and was helped to the locker room.
McQuaid did not return and Boston coach Claude Juliene said didn't have an update on his condition.
Washington coach Barry Trotz said the hit may have looked bad, but it appeared to be clean.
"That's just a hockey play. Unfortunately McQuaid got hurt," Trotz said. "But that's 100 per cent a hockey play and that was absolutely the right call."
NOTES: Boston fans booed when there was no penalty on Sill after the hit on McQuaid. ... Boston LW Brad Marchand served the third of his three-game suspension for a hit last week against Ottawa. ... Holtby went 9-0-1 in December.