Adam McQuaid, Shawn Thornton of Boston Bruins respond to Washington Capitals’ Matt Hendricks

Before they lined up for a third-period faceoff Saturday afternoon, Shawn Thornton had words with the Capitals’ Matt Hendricks. After the puck dropped, Thornton slashed Hendricks’s stick several times and got in his face.

None of that prompted Hendricks to drop his mitts. It took an approach by Adam McQuaid, giving the Bruins a looming tag team on Hendricks, for the Washington forward to finally drop his gloves. Hendricks chose McQuaid at 10:26 of the third.

“I won’t comment on it,” Thornton said of the encounter. “I think everybody saw it. That’s probably enough.”

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Thornton didn’t need to explain. The Bruins did not like how Hendricks went after Nathan Horton at 19:49 of the second period. Hendricks and Horton had been tangling for most of the game prior to the fight, and Hendricks appeared to catch Horton by surprise by shedding his gloves early.

Hendricks opened up a cut on Horton’s forehead, then jerked the Bruin’s jersey over his head.

“We don’t like to see our elite players getting into stuff like that,” McQuaid said. “It’s one of those things where you’ve got to stick up for your teammates.”

Horton can handle fighting. Two years ago, he KO’d Edmonton’s Theo Peckham. It was one of Horton’s seven fights that season.

But the Bruins believed Hendricks needed to answer for targeting Horton. In the third, Hendricks tried his best to avoid fighting Thornton. But when McQuaid came knocking, Hendricks relented and gave the Bruins what they were seeking. Hendricks landed a right punch early, but McQuaid controlled the late segment of the scrap.

“He looked like he didn’t want to go with Thorty, so I figured I’d give him a second option,” McQuaid said. “I guess he didn’t want Thorty. So maybe a smart decision going with me.”

Ference impressive

Andrew Ference scored his first goal of the season at 8:02 of the second period. After taking a drop pass from Horton, Ference rifled a shot over Michal Neuvirth’s glove.

Even before his goal, Ference had turned in one of his better performances. The defenseman skated aggressively, carried the puck with confidence, and was physical in the defensive zone. Ference logged 20:12 of ice time, the most action he’d seen since Jan. 23, when he played 22:03 against the Rangers.

For stretches of the season, the usually reliable Ference had struggled with his decision-making and handling the puck.

“They’re finding their game, both of them as individuals,” coach Claude Julien said of Ference and defense partner McQuaid. “I think Fer does a good job of supporting the attack. He finds those spots where he gets to be free. He managed to score a big goal for us.”

Not Boychuk’s day

Johnny Boychuk’s postgame present was a red welt in the middle of his back. It was courtesy of an Alex Ovechkin shot in the first period.

On Boychuk’s previous shift, the defenseman had staggered off the ice and into the dressing room. During an open-ice collision, Boychuk banged his left knee. Boychuk skated off favoring his leg, and needed help retreating to the room.

“It went all numb, then I was kind of worried because I couldn’t feel my leg,” Boychuk said. “I guess it must have hit a nerve, like if you hit your funny bone and your whole arm goes numb. That’s what I felt like.”

In the second period, David Krejci’s clearing attempt bounced off Boychuk’s left skate and skittered past Anton Khudobin for Washington’s lone goal.

Fallstrom signed

The Bruins signed prospect Alexander Fallstrom to a two-year, entry-level contract Saturday. The 22-year-old had 9 goals and 12 assists in 32 games for Harvard this season. The Crimson’s season ended last Sunday with a loss to Dartmouth in the ECAC tournament. The Bruins acquired Fallstrom on Oct. 18, 2009, as part of the Chuck Kobasew trade with Minnesota . . . Brad Marchand got the better of Mike Ribeiro in a second-period lightweight bout. Halfway through the fight, after getting a good hold of Ribeiro’s jersey with his left hand, Marchand peppered the ex-Canadien with a string of rights. “He learned where to grab, I guess,” Thornton said. “He did a good job. He did a really good job. It’s not an easy job no matter who you are.” . . . The Capitals’ John Erskine was unavailable because of an undisclosed injury. Washington missed the rugged defenseman, especially when the Bruins flexed their muscle . . . Khudobin’s best save came during a Washington power play in the second, when he dived to his left and threw his arm in front of a Nicklas Backstrom shot. “A lot of screens and a lot of traffic, yet he still found pucks,” Julien said. Khudobin will likely back up Tuukka Rask Sunday afternoon against Pittsburgh . . . Thornton was credited with a game-high seven hits.