After two losses to Boston this week, the Washington Capitals needed a shot in the arm to get back to the level of play that won them the Presidents’ Trophy last season.
Saturday night, they got it. Alexander Semin had a hat trick and Mathieu Perreault had two assist as they beat the Atlanta Thrashers 4-3 in overtime.
“I was just trying to get my stick on the puck and make sure it winds up in the net,” Semin said through a translator. “How many times can you try to get around guys? I was just trying not to think about it and just [shoot] it.”
Two of Semin’s goals were set up by center Mathieu Perreault, who made his season debut and ended a plus-three on the night. Bruce Boudreau called Perreault, one of the final cuts in training camp, the “catalyst” for the team’s offense.
“Semin had two goals this year and [Perreault] comes in and he gets three,” Boudreau said. “He did a lot of good things tonight.”
Perreault’s play was one of the few bright spots early on for Washington, who fell behind in shots 21-6 at one point. A second period power-play and a fight by defenseman John Erskine ignited the team, and the offense finally came alive.
Semin’s third goal at 13:28 of the third period gave the Caps a 3-2 lead, and it looked as though the team would hold on to the win until, with 32 seconds remaining, Thrashers forward Evander Kane batted a puck out of the air past goaltender Michal Neuvirth (29 saves). The score was tied at 3-3, and the two teams headed to overtime.
In overtime, the Caps found a way to get the two points, as Tomas Fleischmann knocked in a rebound 97 seconds into the extra frame.
“This is a result game,” Kane said. “You have to get those wins. At the same time, that point could be huge down the road and into the playoffs. Every point you get means a lot.”
The results were especially big for Washington, who was coming off a sweep of a home-and-home series with Boston. The poor efforts prompted owner Ted Leonsis to call the team “average” and that they “had a lot of work to do” at practice.
The team responded well Saturday despite the slow start and, led primarily by Semin and Perreault, picked up two points before a three-game road trip. The two played together briefly last season and in the preseason and tonight, their chemistry paid off.
“[Semin] is such a good player,” Perreault said. “He makes the job easier for me on the ice and hopefully we can get some more games like that.”