Mathieu Perreault was standing in front of the Capitals bench, seconds away from answering a question from Comcast Sportsnets Al Koken, when Alex Ovechkin gave him the shaving cream pie treatment.
I saw him out of the corner of my eye and thats where he got me, Perreault said, his eyes still burning. Right in the eye.
On a night Perreault lit up the Verizon Center with his first NHL hat trick, it was a price worth paying. The 24-year-old native of Drummondville, Quebec gave the Capitals the lead three times, including the game-winner 7:18 into the third period to send the Caps to a thrilling 5-3 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
This is what you dream of, Perreault said. You dream to play in the NHL, but when you get a hat trick, it's even better.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Caps, who were playing their first of three games without Ovechkin, who watched the game from the coachs box high above the ice. Rookie Cody Eakin and defenseman Dennis Wideman also scored for the Capitals and goaltender Tomas Vokoun turned aside 29 of 32 shots for the win.
The Caps drew within one point of the Southeast Division-leading Florida Panthers, but remain in eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings heading into their six-day NHL All-Star break.
If they hope to climb up those standings theyll need more games like the one they had Tuesday night. The Caps outhit the Bruins 30-16 and blocked 20 shots in front of Vokoun, who played a strong game between the pipes to snap his own two-game losing streak.
Those numbers were music to coach Dale Hunters ears.
Boston always prides themselves on work and they do work, Hunter said. But we matched it and came up with the victory. Theyre a physical team and theyre big and we didnt back down. We actually went after them.
And then there was Perreault.
Its great for him, said Wideman, who iced the game with an empty-netter. Weve got two of our leading scorers (Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom) out of the lineup right now and it was really big for us to have Matty come in and step up.
Perreaults heroic night began 2:55 into the second period when he gave the Caps a 2-1 lead, ripping a nice centering pass from linemate Alex Semin past goaltender Tuukka Rask. Semin froze Rask with a fake shot, leaving most of the net open for Perreault.
The Bruins tied the score less than a minute later on an incredible roof shot by Tyler Seguin after a giveaway by John Carlson, but Perreault again gave the Caps the lead on a dramatic goal.
Perreault stripped Johnny Boychuk of the puck in the neutral zone and outraced three Bruins down the ice, snapping a shot past Rasks stick side for his second goal of the game and sixth of the season.
Again, the Bruins battled back to tie, this time on a gritty goal by Brad Marchand, who one day earlier was referred to by President Obama as a little ball of hate.
That simply set the stage for Perreault and the long-haired center did not disappoint, depositing a Roman Hamrlik rebound past Rask for his third goal of the game and a cascade of hats from the sellout crowd.
Its awesome, he said. You cant explain that feeling. Im on fire and wish I could play again tomorrow.
Unlike Sundays loss in Pittsburgh, when the Caps coughed up an early third-period lead before losing in overtime, the Caps played a strong defensive game in the third period, limiting the Bruns to eight shots before Wideman ice it with an empty-netter that was part accident, part luck.
I knew I had some time, Wideman said. I was trying to flip it and it got up on its end and kept rolling. You never want to ice it because that gives them another opportunity off the draw. I got lucky.