BOSTON -- After dropping the first two games of a five-game road trip for their first two-game losing streak of the season, the Washington Capitals entered play with a purpose Tuesday night.
Losing streak over.
"I think we came out better right away," left winger Marcus Johansson said after his third-period goal turned out to be the winner as the Caps moved into first place in the overall NHL standings with a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins.
" I think when we get the lead and play the way we can then we are really, really tough to beat. I think we showed that tonight, and when teams get by us, we have Holts back there, and it's pretty comfortable."
Holts is goaltender Braden Holtby, who has not taken a regulation loss since Nov. 10. He also owns the Bruins, a team he shut put all three times he faced them last season. Holtby improved to 9-2 lifetime against Boston with the latest win, in which he made 25 saves.
He wasn't under siege Tuesday, but he was there when he had to be, stopping a rebound by defenseman Zdeno Chara in the final 30 seconds.
"It's amazing," Johansson said. "He stands on his head every night."
Center Evgeny Kuznetsov scored one goal and set up another for the Capitals, who are 10-1-1 in their past 12 games. Washington (29-7-3) passed the Dallas Stars, who lost Tuesday to the New York Rangers, for No. 1 in the league's overall standings.
Kuznetsov, who has five points in the past four games, set up left winger Andre Burakovsky's opening goal, then scored his 13th to give Washington a 2-0 lead in the second period.
The Bruins (20-14-4), coming off a lackluster performance in a 5-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the Winter Classic, lost for the fifth time in six games.
The Capitals, who swept four games from the Bruins by a combined 13-1 count last season, improved to 13-0 when leading after one period and to 20-0-1 when ahead after two.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask made 26 saves in the losing effort.
"I think we played a bit smarter overall," Rask said when asked if this was better than the Classic. "It's still a loss, but we played better, I thought. Not as many scoring chances defensively from around the net area, so I think that's an improvement."
Added Boston coach Claude Julien, whose team heads out on a five-game road trip that starts in New Jersey on Friday night: "For me, disappointed at the loss, not disappointed in the effort, and I think that's the biggest thing. Our guys worked hard, they tried, we had chances, and this is a good (Washington) hockey club."
Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid left the game in the second period after a hit from Washington center Zach Sill. No penalty was called on the play, and it appeared McQuaid, who previously delivered a tough hit in the corner and took a puck to the face on the shift, was knocked out cold. He was helped to his feet and made his way to the dressing room but did not return.
"I couldn't see the original hit, but when I saw the replay ... that's just a hockey play," Caps coach Barry Trotz said. "Unfortunately, McQuaid got hurt, but that's 100 percent a hockey play, and that was absolutely the right call."
NOTES: C Joonas Kemppainen returned to the Bruins' lineup after missing 11 games with an upper-body injury. "It's been a long four weeks that I've had to sit out," he said. ... Capitals G Braden Holtby was named the NHL's "Second Star" for December, going 9-0-1. ... RW David Pastrnak returned from the World Junior Championships, where he suffered a minor finger injury and was sent back to Providence. He hasn't played for Boston since suffering a broken foot Oct. 31. ... Capitals RW Stanislav Galiev dressed for the first time in 10 games and for just the eighth game this season. ... A scoring change gave the Bruins' lone goal in the Winter Classic to D Adam McQuaid, his first goal of the year. LW Matt Beleskey had been credited with a tip-in, but the puck was ruled to have gone in off the stick of Montreal C Alex Galchenyuk. ... Bruins LW Brad Marchand sat the second game of his three-game suspension.