The Capitals knew they would need someone to step up in the absence of three of the team’s biggest star players. They received that clutch performance from Mathieu Perreault, who recorded his first career hat trick in the NHL to lead Washington to a 5-3 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

Boston goalie Tuukka Rask stops a Matthieu Perreault shot, but three got past him in the Capitals’ win. (Richard Lipski/Associated Press)

“You see where we are in the standings,” Coach Dale Hunter said. “The guys buckled down and won the game, they wanted to win it. They really wanted to win bad.”

Washington is still working to find consistency and heading into the break it is 2-2-1 in its past five games. But after a pair of strong performances against the Penguins and Bruins, it offers something to possibly build off of when the season resumes next week.

“It’s huge. You look at Boston, Stanley Cup champs last year. One of the best teams in the league right now. They’re going to be one of the best teams the rest of the season, that’s for sure,” Matt Hendricks said. “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.”

Knowing they had a prolonged break coming up, gave the Capitals extra energy to want to finish on a high note after what’s been a long month of January, with 12 games in 21 days.

“Guys were getting a little tired, but we knew that, lets give it all,” Perreault said. “We have a break for the next five days, so we all put it all on the line tonight.”