“It’s awesome. You can’t describe that feeling. This is what you dream of. You dream to play in the NHL, but when you get a hat trick, it’s even better. It was just a great feeling.” –Mathieu Perreault after his first career hat trick.
While President Obama was addressing the Nation a few blocks away, the Verizon Center erupted in shock and joy as Mathieu Perreault got his first career hat trick and the Washington Capitals defeated the Boston Bruins, the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, 5-3.
Earlier in the day, things looked grim to some. The last game that both Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom did not play was back on Jan. 31, 2006. Last night was the first game without all three “big stars” since they were drafted, (Ovechkin, Backstrom and Green).The Washington Capitals needed to have players step up their game. And they did indeed.
Mathieu Perreault was the number one star of the game, however, several players had significant contributions to the win. Cody Eakin scored the first goal of the night which sparked the offense. Jay Beagle assisted on Eakin’s goal, won four-out-of-five face-offs and had three hits with only 8:37 of ice time. Tomas Vokoun made several great saves and stopped twenty-nine shots. Matt Hendricks led the team with six hits and skated a career high 17:45, all while taking a puck in his injured ear and broke a stitch. Dennis Wideman led the team in ice time with 26:58 and scored a goal. Jeff Halpern took a majority of the face-offs and won eleven out of fifteen. Roman Hamrilk had two assists and three shots and was named second star of the game.
Mathieu Perreault has been a healthy scratch for many games this season and with the recent opportunities, his ice time has increased along with his confidence. He now has four goals in his last four games with two goals being the game winners. Each of his three goals against Boston put the Caps into a one goal lead.
Perreault also had two stick penalties, one which resulted in a Bruins goal, and only won two out of nine face-offs so there is still room for improvement. “[I've] just got to keep doing my thing and work hard,” he said. “Obviously, when you get more minutes, it’s always easier. It seems to be that when I get hot, I get more minutes, obviously, so I’m just trying to get off to a good start so I can keep getting more ice time and games.”
Coach Hunter decided to add Perreault to the top line. “He’s always puts up numbers, [he] won scoring races in juniors, so you know he had skill and that’s why he went right to the top line. He went right from the fourth line to the top line because we know he could play with some skill.”
Dennis Wideman got an empty net goal with a few second left in the game to secure the win. “It was supposed to be just a flip just to get it out and then it just got up on end and kept going.”
Head Coach Dale Hunter was happy with the team’s performance. “Boston’s a good team. It’s a measuring stick for everybody. They won it last year [the Stanley Cup], so with top-end guys out and the other lines we all worked hard. I thought we had a real good work ethic tonight. Boston always prides themselves on work and they do work, but we matched it and came up with the victory.”
The win puts the Caps back on top of the Southeast Division. Florida lost last night in a shootout and picked up one point so both teams have 55 points, however, Caps have more wins putting them in first place.
The Capitals head into the All-Star break on a good note and hopefully the momentum keeps going. Dennis Wideman said, “You always want to win the last game going into [a] break, [it] makes the break a little [more] fun. Hopefully we can carry that into the trip down to Florida. It was big for us to win that one.” Karl Alzner agreed. “For us to win and have that momentum going into break feeling somewhat good about ourselves and now we can just focus in on the game at hand, which is keep winning hockey games.” Perreault said, “I wish we had another game tomorrow.”
Video Highlights, including Perreault’s Hat Trick:
Ovechkin watched the game from the press box, however, hustled down to the ice at end of the game to surprise Perreault. During Matty P.’s post-game interview with Al Koken, Ovi hit Perreault in the face with a shaving cream pie to congratulate him on his first career hat trick. Traditionally a baseball thing, but it works for me.
- With Captain Alex Ovechkin out, Troy Brouwer wore the additional “A” during the game along with Mike Knuble and Brooks Laich (wearing the A while Backstrom is out).
- Washington Nationals new pitcher Gio Gonzalez was at game.
- The Capitals will be off tomorrow and will return to practice following the NHL All-Star Break on Monday, Jan. 30 at 2 p.m. at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
- Caps fans earned free wings from Glory Day Grill.
- Fun fact from Mike Vogel: Perreault’s hat trick is the first by a player drafted after first round since Peter Bondra (who was at the game last night).
- The hooded Caps player in pre-game video was Dennis Wideman.
- Video tribute to Dennis Wideman honoring his 500th game and first All-Star Game.
Cheryl Nichols is a Columnist and Photographer for District Sports Page. She is credentialed to cover the Washington Capitals and has reported on the community service and fan events for Nats News Network and Caps News Network since 2006. Cheryl is an accomplished action photographer and has been published in The Washington Post and many other local media. She was a credentialed photographer for the 2010 season covering the Washington Nationals. You can follow her on Twitter @cnichols14.