Capitals’ third line continues to provide a spark

April 14, 2013

Mathieu Perreault was a key figure on Washington’s third line Saturday night/AP

In the moment, Washington Capitals forward Eric Fehr had no idea how valuable the two goals his line scored Saturday night against Tampa Bay would become. At the time, when Fehr and wing Jason Chimera scored less than three minutes apart, it simply seemed like one of those contests when Washington could do no wrong.

The Capitals held a 5-1 lead over the Lightning after center Mathieu Perreault stole the puck from Tampa Bay defenseman Matt Carle near the blue line and proceeded to execute a nifty spin move to feed Fehr for a highlight-reel goal. Once Washington collapsed in the third period, though, it turned into the game-tying tally.

“Those goals obviously ended up being big for us,” noted Fehr, whose goal came 38 seconds after Tampa Bay forward Richard Panik scored during a wild sequence in the second period.

It also served as another reminder of the work being done by Washington’s secondary scorers. While captain Alex Ovechkin and the top line have drawn many of the headlines for their improved play recently, and deservedly so now that Ovechkin leads the NHL in goals again, the Capitals have also been getting plenty of help from other places.

On Saturday, it was the third line that picked up the slack and Perreault led the charge with two assists. He also connected with Chimera on a pretty give-and-go for Washington’s fourth goal of the night Saturday. It was just Chimera’s second goal all season, and his first since March 17.

Perreault “could’ve even had a goal or two, but he was looking to set us up a little bit,” Fehr said. “When he gets in a passing groove, he’s real good. He can find guys behind the play and he’s got great passing ability.”

Count Coach Adam Oates among those impressed. He noted Saturday that he had been praising his third line since last week, when winger Joel Ward scored two goals in four games. With Ward out the last three games due to a knee injury, though, the Capitals haven’t missed a beat.

“I’m glad that those guys have been rewarded because those guys have played real great hockey for us lately,” Oates said. “They deserve it.”

Note: General Manager George McPhee announced Sunday that the Capitals have agreed to extend their affiliation agreement with the Reading Royals of the East Coast Hockey League for the 2013-14 season. The 2012-13 campaign was Reading’s first as Washington’s ECHL affiliate.

“Our experience this past season confirms that Reading is a top quality environment for our young players to develop,” McPhee said in a statement.

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Mark Giannotto | April 14, 2013