With last night’s thrilling shootout victory over the New York Islanders, the Washington Capitals leapfrogged the New Jersey Devils to take sole ownership of first place in the Eastern Conference. Their three-game win streak has come about without the presence of one Alex Ovechkin.
Enter: Mathieu Perreault. Not a replacement; but a filler.
The 5-10, 170-pound (depending on who you ask) forward has centered on a Capitals’ third line that has supplied some much-needed secondary scoring. Sure size has always been a question, but don’t tell that to Mathieu. His hard work and tenacious fore-checking efforts paid off when he scored his first NHL goal two games ago against the Florida Panthers.
The happy-go-lucky 22-year old recently described his first career tally:
“I reacted silly,” Perreault said Wednesday. “I’ve never done [a double fist pump] before. It was just in the moment reacting.”
“The puck was dumped behind the net. I just got on a forecheck pretty hard and took the puck from the D-man and stuffed it.”
Although his first was a softie, Perreault is no stranger to lighting the lamp. He amassed 41 goals and 78 assists in 2007 and was awarded the QMJHL MVP Award. A year later, Perreault ended with 114 points (34+80) and was rewarded with a three-game stint in the AHL playoffs with the Hershey Bears.
In his first full season in the AHL last year in Hershey, Perreault continued to be Mr. Productive. On a line with fellow rookies Oskar Osala and Francois Bouchard (brother of Pierre-Marc), Mathieu finished tied for 10th in rookie scoring with 50 points. Two more goals and 21 games later, Mathieu Perreault and the Hershey Bears captured the Calder Cup.
Fast-forward to this season and in the Caps’ most recent game, Perreault found himself starring down Dwayne Roloson in the sixth round of the shootout with a chance to take the lead. As Mathieu glided in Roloson, his copious amount of dekes ultimately led to a lack of real estate and resulted in a missed attempt. Never one to get down on himself, Perry laughed it off. No, seriously. Not just a chuckle or an uneasy smile, but laughter.
Last year, Perreault had to sit back and watch as teammate after teammate got called up to the NHL. A grand total of sixteen players suited up for the Caps and the Hershey Bears in 2008-2009. Perreault was not one of them. He knows that his days in the NHL are numbered (at least for this season) and he’s making the most out of the opportunity. More importantly, he’s having a blast doing it. Besides, isn’t that what it’s all about?