WASHINGTON – Mathieu Perreault had a goal and an assist, Cody Eakin added a goal and Chris Bourque had three assists as each player auditioned to make the Washington roster in the Capitals’ 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in front of an announced 18,025 fans at Verizon Center in Washington, DC.
The Capitals improved to 1-2-1 in the preseason, while the Blue Jackets moved to 3-2-1.
Perreault, Eakin and Bourque are a part of a group of forwards that are vying for a limited number of remaining spots on the Capitals’ opening night roster. Perreault played in 35 games for Washington last year, scoring seven goals and dishing out seven assists. Bourque played 13 games for the Capitals for parts of three seasons from 2007 to 2010. Eakin is trying to make his Capitals debut this year.
“They all played pretty good,” said Capitals’ head coach Bruce Boudreau. “Their energy that they showed was a real uplifting thing. They seemed to really play well together, so it was a good sight to see.”
Perreault, Eakin and Bourque played on the same line for most of the night, and Boudreau said that was by design.
“I’ve found you’re more comfortable with guys who you don’t have to feel that you have to impress. Like sometimes, you put, say a Perreault between a Semin and somebody else, and he’s going, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to get him the puck, I’ve got to do this.’ So you don’t play your own game.
“But you [put] him with two guys that he’s been with or he feels comfortable because he doesn’t have to impress them. And I’m sure Cody might be feeling the same way and maybe Chris is the same way. So, I mean, all together, they meshed tonight fairly well.”
Perreault used his quickness to create time and space throughout the game. He scored the Capitals’ third goal of the night while the Capitals were on the power play in the second period. Perreault found space on the right post, received a pass from Roman Hamrlik and tapped in his first goal of the preseason past Columbus netminder Curtis Sanford.
Bourque had the secondary helper on Perreault’s goal. Bourque also had the primary assist on Dennis Wideman’s goal and the secondary assist on Eakin’s goal, both of which occurred in the first period. Perreault and Bourque played with each other quite in the past, including on Hershey’s Calder Cup teams in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons.
“We’re making it a little harder on [the coaches] to send us down. We played a good game and I think if they want to put us together again, it’ll probably be the same thing because we’re three guys that really want to be here and work really hard. We’re a pretty good line together.
“I’ve played with [Bourque]. For all my years in Hershey I was with him so we know where we are on the ice. I know when I get the puck where he’s going to be. We’re talking a lot on the ice to each other and it makes things easier for us.”
Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth was also impressive, not allowing a goal until late in the contest when Vinny Prospal netted a wrist shot to keep the Blue Jackets from being shut out. Neuvirth made 22 saves, a number of which were quality stops.
Neuvirth will be competing with Tomas Vokoun for playing time throughout the season. Neuvirth posted a 2.45 goals-against average and had a .914 save percentage in 49 games last year with Washington.
“I think he’s allowed three goals in the two games he’s played, and he’s looked very good in both games,” said Boudreau. “But we knew he was really good last year. This is not a surprise, Michal Neuvirth playing good. There was a reason he played in the playoffs for us and down the stretch – because he’s a very good goalie.”