No Ovechkin, no problem?
Before the Capitals 5-3 win over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night, center Mathieu Perreault told CSN analyst Al Koken he wanted to bring the energy to help fill in for a suspended Alex Ovechkin. Little did he know it would turn out to be the best night of his young career.
Perreault scored his first hat trick against the defending Stanley Cup champions, notching three goals that all gave Washington the lead. He played 13:56 of ice time vs. Boston, the second most he has appeared all season. The most ice time he has received was actually the teams previous game in which he saw over 16 minutes of action against Pittsburgh.
Perreault believes simply playing more is the key for him to be consistent.
When I get more ice time I feel a lot more comfortable. It was the same thing when I was in Hershey, my first year I wasnt playing that much, he said. Once I get more ice time this is when I feel better.
Coach Dale Hunter is the one who makes that call and after the game praised the young center for making the most of the opportunity.
Thats what we needed, somebody to step up and have a good game, and it was good for him.
Hunter mentioned several times the line Perreault played on, a speedy group that included Alex Semin and Marcus Johansson. Hunter lauded the line as a whole and said they were instrumental in turning the team around from a slow start. The Capitals had only two shot attempts midway through the first period, but by midway through the second had tied Boston with 15. Perreault led the Caps with five shots on goal and even blocked two on the other end. He also led the team with four penalty minutes, a minor for hooking in the second and another for high-sticking in the third.
Perreaults first goal came nearly three minutes into the second period. Roman Hamrlik spotted a three-on-two from the blue-line and split two defenders with a saucer pass to Perreault at center ice. Perreault led the charge with Marcus Johansson to his left and Alex Semin to his right. He passed to Semin who faked a slapshot by winding up. Semin then crossed it past two defensemen to Perreault who found space to the right of goaltender Tuukka Rask.
I didnt even see where the goalie was, I just tried to put it on the net. Then I was like whoa, look what happened, where is he?' All in all it was a great play by Semin, Perreault said.
His second score was unassisted and put the Capitals up 3-2 late in the second frame. Tyler Seguin had just tied the game by stealing the puck from John Carlson and beating Tomas Vokoun top shelf on a quick breakaway. Perreault gained a similar opportunity after stealing the puck and beating Zdeno Chara with pure speed down the ice.
I kind of pick-pocketed that guy at center ice and just skated right down the middle. I didnt even look, I knew I was going right blocker and I just threw it at the net, he said.
On smoking Chara:
I had some speed there and he stood still, I just blew by him.
Before Perreaults third goal he would have a close encounter with the former Norris trophy winner. Just over four minutes into the third, Perreault (58) was called for high-sticking as his blade flew all the way up to Charas (611) face. Perreault disagreed with the call and said afterwards he barely touched him. He also said the penalty frustrated him and that emotion played a role in his third score.
Roman Hamrlik shot a hard puck in from the top of the zone and caused a prime rebound straight ahead off Rasks pads. Perreault secured the rebound from about five feet out and again found room to the left of the Bruins netminder.
I was kind of mad, but I came back and then got that bounce right in front of me and I put it in the net, he said.
Perreault may have been angry about the penalty, but all that went away of course when he saw the hats rain down from the stands.
You cant explain that feeling. This is what you dream of, you dream to play in the NHL but when you get a hat trick its even better, he said.
Perreault also got a pie to the face from Ovechkin during his postgame interview with CSN and found a collection of hats at his stall when he entered the locker room. It was clear on a night like this the adoration his teammates have for the 24-year-old center.
The kids been working extremely hard all season. Hes been in and out of the lineup but he comes to the rink with that smile on his face. Hes got a great personality and hes a great guy to be around, Matt Hendricks said.
Im sure everybody else in this room feels the same way. Hes a tremendous asset to this team.
Perreault now has six points in his last four games and a two-game streak of multiple points. With his recent opportunity and success, Perreault is a little bummed everything has to stop for the All-Star break.
Right now that I am on fire, I wish we had another game tomorrow.