Over the course of the Capitals’ 5-2 victory against the Flyers Thursday night, one line remained constant. Washington’s fourth line of Matt Hendricks, Mathieu Perreault and Jeff Halpern created regular offensive chances, staved off any heavy pressure from the Flyers and seemed immune from some of the lapses that plagued the rest of the team in the second period.
By the end of the night, Perreault had a goal and an assist and finished plus-2; Hendricks was plus-2, added an assist and three shots while winning all three of his faceoffs; and Halpern was a plus-1, won six of the seven draws he took and suffered a cut above his left eye that required several stitches as though nothing had happened.
“I think it’s been great so far; we hope it continues,” Coach Bruce Boudreau said of the fourth line. “They certainly give us energy. You take last night’s game, I think the first three shifts weren’t very good; then they come out and dominate their line shift and then the rest of the team picks up and follows their lead. . . . I thought they were a main component of us being successful.”
After the game Boudreau said the outing might have been Perreault’s “best game as pro.” It’s quite the compliment for the 23-year-old center who cracked the roster out of camp for the first time in his career and has been battling for a regular place in the nightly lineup. After Jay Beagle suffered an apparent concussion in a fight with Arron Asham in Pittsburgh last week, though, Perreault’s spot is a little more secure.
In four appearances, ranging from more than eight minutes to nearly 13 in those outings, Perreault has a combined three points and is plus-4 with five shots. His goal against the Flyers was more of a pass to his linemates causing traffic in front, where it went of the stick of Philadelphia’s Braydon Coburn and past Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Capitals’ fourth line trio prides itself on being able to provide a spark and change momentum, and it also knows how to score goals: Halpern recorded 26 points and 11 goals in Montreal last year and has scored as many as 44 since the lockout; Hendricks tallied nine goals and 25 points in his second full NHL season in 2010-11; and Perreault was known as a scorer in the AHL where he had back-to-back 50-point seasons. But each player is still mindful of that they must take care of the play in their own end.
“Even though we’re a fourth line working hard, we still have skill and guys can score,” Perreault said. “These guys have been scoring in their career and I’ve been known as a more point guy than defensive guy. If we can do both and be energetic and play good in our D-zone and get a few goals, it will be great for this team.”
Halpern agreed with Perreault, who he said helps add that dual nature to the fourth line with his skill.
“Matty’s a special player,” Halpern said. “He’s able to hold onto the puck, make those little plays and little passes that only a handful of guys in the league are able to do. I think for me and Hendy, it’s important to get on pucks and make sure we can get it to him and get open and try to complement him as much as we can.”