Since late December, Mathieu Perreault’s place in the Capitals’ lineup has come in waves of sitting out as a healthy scratch for consecutive games and then playing a few in a row.
While the 24-year-old Quebec native understands his role as part of Washington’s supporting cast, Perreault is keenly aware that the more he produces, the greater chance he’ll have a steady place in the mix each night.
In the four games leading up to the NHL All-Star break, which began Wednesday for the Capitals, Perreault recorded four goals and two assists in an output punctuated by his first career hat trick in a 5-3 win over the Bruins.
“I felt really good today. As I get more ice time, I feel more comfortable and and get more confidence out there,” Perreault said. “It’s a big part of my game when I get more ice time, I feel a lot more comfortable. Same way when I was in Hershey – my first two years I wasn’t playing much and once I get more ice time, this is when I feel better.”
Perreault was able to relish his hat trick – from the fact that the game was broadcast on RDS so many of his family and friends in Quebec got to watch the performance, to the stinging in his eyes after Alex Ovechkin caught him with a shaving-cream pie after the game.
If you missed it last night, check out the video below. It shows Ovechkin sneak up on an unsuspecting Perreault, who was preparing to do a postgame interview with CSN’s Al Koken on the bench, and smash a towel full of shaving cream into the center’s face.
Perreault found himself propelled from the fourth line to the first as injuries and illness depleted Washington’s depth at center. He skated on the first line on Jan. 22 against Pittsburgh with both Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) and Marcus Johansson (food poisoning) out and recorded two assists alongside Ovechkin and Alexander Semin.
Against Boston he received the same opportunity, this time centering Johansson and Semin, as the Capitals looked for effective combinations with Ovechkin serving the first game of his three-game suspension, in addition to the injury to Backstrom. Perreault recorded three goals, three different ways, for his hat trick that led a team in need of someone willing to take on a starring role.
“It’s good for him to come in and do a job. Obviously we needed someone to step up,” Dennis Wideman said. “I thought he played really well, he got one on a great defensive [play] — neutral zone picked a pass off — went on a breakaway and buried and one off a rebound getting in front of the net getting gritty.”
For Perreault, the challenge in his professional career has always been consistency, and finding a way to make an impact in most of the games he plays.
“I’ve just got to keep doing my thing and work hard. And obviously when you get more minutes, it’s always easier,” Perreault said. “When I get hot, I get more minutes, obviously. I’m just trying to get off to good starts and I can keep getting more ice time in games.”
Given that the Capitals will likely still be without their two offensive franchise pillars when the season resumes with games against Tampa Bay and Florida next week, he will probably have a chance to build on his success. In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of the NHL, he must.
“He’s got to have a good game in Tampa the next game,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “He’s got to realize he can’t live on it. It’s the next game that counts.”