Young Guns, Part Deux – As Japers’ Rink pointed out earlier in the day, Tuesday’s game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins marked the first time the Capitals had played a game without at least one of their trio of offensive talents – Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom – since they were drafted (Ovechkin and Green in 2004 and Backstrom in 2006).
With only Alexander Semin in the lineup among the Caps’ vaunted foursome of “Young Guns,” Washington needed someone to step up and spearhead the team’s attack, an offense that hadn’t generated more than 30 shots on goal in a game in more than a month.
The Capitals still haven’t managed more than 30 shots in a game since Dec. 13, but 23 shots was enough to get five goals on the B’s and head off to the All-Star break with a satisfying 5-3 win over the champs.
“I think we played well tonight,” says Caps defenseman Dennis Wideman. “They kept coming at us. That’s a really tough team to play against. They cycle the puck well. I think they had some turnovers in the neutral zone, which is pretty uncharacteristic. We took advantage. I think we did a good job in the neutral zone, kept clogging it up.”
A couple of fresh young faces still shy of 100 games in the league fueled the Caps’ attack. Mathieu Perreault notched the first hat trick of his NHL career after Cody Eakin got the Caps started with a goal at 2:14 of the second.
“It’s awesome,” says Perreault. “You can’t describe that feeling. This is what you dream of. You dream to play in the NHL, but when you get a hat trick, it’s even better. It was just a great feeling.”
The 24-year-old Perreault was playing in his 86th NHL game; he now has 18 career goals in the league. The 20-year-old Eakin skated in his 27th NHL contest tonight; he scored his fourth career goal when he beat Boston netminder Tuukka Rask.
In two games since being promoted from the fourth to the first line, Perreault now has three goals and two assists for five points.
“He’s always puts up numbers,” says Caps coach Dale Hunter of Perreault. “[He] won scoring races in juniors, so you know he had skill and that’s why he went right to the top line. He went right from the fourth line to the top line because we know he could play with some skill.”
Perreault’s hat trick was Washington’s second in its last four home games. Troy Brouwer tallied thrice in a 4-3 win over the Lightning on Jan. 13.
“It was a team effort tonight,” says Caps forward Matt Hendricks. “Matty P., hats off to him on his hat trick; that’s so exciting. But hats off to everybody else too. Caps goalie [Tomas Vokoun] played great and everyone did what they had to do and filled their niche on this team – blocking shots, getting pucks in and out of zones. Matty P., congrats!”
Sans Captain – Ovechkin sat out the first of his NHL-mandated three-game suspension on Tuesday, watching the game from high above the Verizon Center sheet. Ovechkin has played in 522 career NHL games; tonight marked just the 18th game he has missed.
The Capitals are now 10-6-2 in those games without Ovechkin, and they’ve outscored the opposition by a combined total of 62-52.
Washington was 0-4-1 in the first five games Ovechkin missed in his NHL career, so they’re 10-2-1 in their last 13 without him.
Good Company – Perreault’s hat trick was the first by a player drafted by the Capitals later than the first round since Peter Bondra hung a three-spot on the Blue Jackets in Columbus during a 5-3 Washington win on Nov. 29, 2003. The hat trick was the last of 19 Bondra notched during his days in the District.
Bondra was Washington’s ninth choice (156th overall) in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. He remains Washington’s all-time leader in many offensive categories, including goals (473).
Perreault was Washington’s 10th choice (177th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.
In between Bondra’s hat trick in 2003 and Perreault’s tonight, the Capitals recorded a total of 21 hat tricks.
Working Man – For the second consecutive game, Hendricks – a one-time member of the Boston organization – established a single-game career high in ice time.
After skating a career best 16:32 in Sunday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh, Hendricks bettered that mark by more than a minute when he punched in for 17:45 in Tuesday’s triumph over the Bruins.
More impressively, Hendricks played both games with a makeshift mudflap of sorts constructed on the right earhole of his helmet. That bit of workmanship was made necessary at a Saturday practice in Pittsburgh when Hendricks was hit in the right ear by an errant Ovechkin slapshot.
A gruesome injury resulted, and Hendricks needed plastic surgery, some stitches and some serious reconstruction to be able to play against the Pens less than 24 hours later.
Hendricks left Tuesday’s game briefly after getting hit with a puck up high, an incident that opened up his Saturday wound a bit.
“I’m ready for the [All-Star] break,” sighs Hendricks. “I broke a stitch and there’s a little cut underneath. I didn’t need this today.”
Flow, Yo – From the center-ice face-off after Perreault netted what would prove to be the game-winning goal at 7:18 of the third period, the Caps and Bruins played 7:08 of exciting hockey without a single whistle.
Hot Stuff – Perreault now has four goals and six points in his last four games. Wideman has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in his last 22 games. Semin has 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in his last 17 games. Marcus Johansson has nine points (three goals, six assists) in his last 11 games.
Drawing Even – The Bruins won 17 of the 24 (71%) face-offs in the game’s second period. Washington rebounded to win 12 of just 16 (75%) face-offs in the final frame. Jeff Halpern won half of those third-period draws, winning six of seven (86%) when it mattered the most.
At game’s end, the two teams had split the game’s 56 draws, winning 28 each.
By The Numbers – Wideman led the Caps with 26:36, and he also tallied the game-sealing empty-netter at the end against his former employers … Perreault led the Caps with five shots on goal … Hendricks paced the Caps with six hits on the night … John Carlson led the way for Washington with four blocked shots … Roman Hamrlik had his first multipl-point game as a Capital with a pair of assists … Caps goalie Tomas Vokoun earned his 20th win of the season.