It was mid-March and Karl Alzner was on the Internet. Like most twentysomethings, he looked up silly videos on YouTube to kill time. He stumbled across one from early last year — it was of Peter Dill, a basketball player for Seton Hall. Dill scored a single basket in his two years playing for the school, but he did get very excited when his team scored. Alzner played the clip for Mathieu Perreault.
“The guy would just go crazy, pretend he had Thor’s Hammer and he’d be smashing the ground,” Alzner told me Saturday afternoon. “Perry, I could just see his eyes, like ‘this is awesome!’”
“We should do that after we win games,” Perreault responded.
A couple weeks later, Alex Ovechkin put the puck past Jhonas Enroth during a shootout in Buffalo, ensuring a 4-3 victory for Washington. Perry followed through on his agreement with Alzner, letting out a primal scream, pumping his fists, and shaking on the bench. CSN’s cameras zoomed in, GIFs were made, and a meme was born — all within about 20 minutes.
“I didn’t know if he was gonna do it or not — but he did,” Alzner said.
“I get excited when we win!” Perreault added. “It’s just fun.”
A few days after Perreault’s inaugural freakout, the Capitals won another game in the shootout, this time over the New York Islanders, and Matty P. reacted with a manic windmill thing. The Internet took note again. But according to Alzner, he was also going wild at the time, doing some air-archery, a nod to one of Dill’s moves at Seton Hall. No one saw, though, and Alzner gave up trying to match Perreault.
“He’s doing it good — and I haven’t been,” said Alzner.
In the final game of the regular season, Perreault brought back his original convulsing celebration after the Caps beat the Bruins in overtime. Then, when Mike Ribeiro tallied nine minutes and 24 seconds into OT on Friday, Perreault went insane for the forth time.
“He’s a funny dude, so it doesn’t surprise me one bit,” Joel Ward, Perreault’s linemate, said. “For us that’s just a normal episode for him. He’s quite the character.”
There have been parodies, t-shirts, and perpetual replays, but the player at the heart of it has been largely oblivious of the reception the celebrations have gotten. Perreault’s not on Twitter and apart from a few videos, he was unaware it’d now become synonymous with him.
“I didn’t think it was gonna be that big of deal,” Perry said. “I mean, if people like it then it’s good.”
Alzner, though, knew he had something interesting from the start.
“I’m not too surprised,” Alzner said with a wry smile when asked for his reaction to the reaction. “I’m pretty happy about it actually.”
For Perreault, the celebrations are an illustration of his progression this season. It’s silly and it’s funny, but the scene would have seemed foreign back in February. The Caps were awful. Perreault was skating on the fourth line, only getting a few minutes of ice time a night. He hated it. As Adam Oates promised, though, Perreault got his chance. Now Matty P skates on the Washington’s superb third line, part of a Capitals team that hopes to win a Cup.
When that team wins, he celebrates more than anyone.