When Mathieu Perreault was growing up in Drummondville, he dreamed about one day playing for the Canadiens, but he never dreamed he would have a night like the one he experienced Saturday.
Perreault had a hat-trick to lead the Canadiens to their first win of the season — a 6-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at the Bell Centre.
“You don’t dream about a moment like this,” Perreault said. “You dream about being in the NHL and maybe playing for the Montreal Canadiens, but now, to actually score a hat-trick in the home building, it’s unbelievable and I’m trying to take it in as much as I can.”
The close-to-sellout crowd was in a giddy mood as the Canadiens rolled up the score. They did the wave and began chanting Perreault’s name after he scored an empty-net goal with 6:44 to play to complete his hat-trick
“When they chanted my name, I had chills,” Perrault said. “It’s one of those moments I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I was happy we were getting a win and I had a hat-trick and I was trying to soak it in. The crowd was cheering my name and it’s something I may never experience again.”
When Perreault was told he was the first Quebec player to score a hat-trick for the Canadiens at home since Vincent Damphousse did it in 1998 when the building was known as the Molson Centre, he said: “I guess I’m in pretty good company.”
The 33-year-old Perreault was signed as a free agent after he was cast adrift by the Winnipeg Jets and there were questions during training camp about where he would fit. He started the season on left wing and, after he was a healthy scratch for Tuesday’s loss to San Jose, he was inserted at centre between Tyler Toffoli and Cole Caufield.
Perreault, who played centre earlier in his career, said he is learning a new system in Montreal, but he looked comfortable Saturday.
He was the only Canadien centre to win more than 50 per cent of his faceoffs, winning five of seven. He had a game-high six shots on goal and had three other shots blocked.
Mike Hoffman, who scored his first goal of the season on the power play, said it was important to get a win before embarking on a four-game road trip to the western United States
“This was a big win,” Hoffman said. “We have a couple of days off and a long flight (to Seattle) tomorrow and it wouldn’t have been a fun atmosphere if we had lost again tonight. The guys are going to have some fun for a couple of days and then get back to work.”
Defenceman Sami Niku made the most of his first appearance for the Canadiens. He picked up a couple of assists and was named one of the three stars after finishing at plus-3.
Niku was a late arrival in camp after being picked up from Winnipeg on waivers and had a setback when he suffered a concussion in his first exhibition game against Ottawa. He was a healthy scratch for the first five regular-season games and hadn’t played in the NHL since March 1, 2021.
“It was my first real game in seven months (and) I needed to find my rhythm at the beginning,” Niku said. “I felt better from the second period. I was confident, I knew I could play a good game. It was tough watching all those games and not being able to help the team.”
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