Mathieu Perreault still felt the sting of shaving cream in his left eye. Alex Ovechkin was suspended for the game, but the Washington Capitals captain and expert of the shaving cream towel managed to catch the young French-Canadian forward by surprise.
"That's why he got me right in the eye, as you guys can probably tell,” Perreault said with a smile.
It was hard to wipe the smile off the 24-year-old's face after his first career hat trick was just about the sole reason the Caps beat the Boston Bruins 5-3 on Tuesday night at Verizon Center to go into the All-Star break in first place in the Southeast Division.
As the hats rained down from the crowd after his third goal, Perreault could barely put into words what was going through his mind.
"It's awesome. You can't explain that feeling,” he said. "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's just a great feeling.”
It was a dreams come true kind of night for the Drummondville, Quebec, native whose first hat trick came against a team he grew up hating.
It was only a week ago that Perreault was in the Verizon Center press box watching instead of playing for the seventh time in 10 games. At that point, he couldn't have imagined a game like this and a "tour-du-chapeau.”
"When you're not playing, you just want to get out there and do good things and not make any mistake and maybe get a point — a goal — just show you can get back in the lineup,” he said. "You never think about getting three goals. Tonight was just a good day for me.”
That's an understatement. And it came at the perfect time with the Caps missing not only Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green but also Ovechkin, who was serving the first of a three-game suspension.
Dale Hunter might not have known exactly what he had in Perreault, but he had some understanding of his past.
"That's why he went right to the top line — right from the fourth line to the top line because we knew he could fill in with some skill,” the Caps' coach said.
From the press box all the way to the top line in less than a week. His teammates couldn't have been happier about that.
"It was outstanding. Kid’s been working extremely hard all season,” forward Matt Hendricks said. "He’s been in and out of the lineup. He comes to the rink with that smile on his face and he’s got a great personality, great guy to be around. I feel great for him. I'm so happy.”
Perreault has four goals and two assists in four games since getting back into the lineup. He only played 13:56 but made the most of it.
"I felt really good today. As I get more ice time, I feel more comfortable and and get more confidence out there,” Perreault said. "It's a big part of my game when I get more ice time, I feel a lot more comfortable.”
With that, he wasn't quite comfortable with the shaving cream in his eyes. But for one night, it was more than OK.
"This is the best feeling ever,” Perreault said. "Getting three goals and we win the game, this is awesome.”
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