Gail McDonald is going to remember Mathieu Perreault for a long, long time. That’s because Perreault was inches away from netting her $1 million.
On Tuesday night, in Winnipeg's 8-2 romping of the Florida Panthers, Perreault accomplished a feat that only two other players in Winnipeg Jets/Atlanta Thrashers history had achieved: he scored four times, just one shy of the magic number and a possible million dollar night for one lucky fan. The goals were his 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th of the season, and they came early and often.
The other franchise four-goal scorers were Ilya Kovalchuk, who did it on Nov. 11, 2005, and Pascal Rheaume, who potted four on Jan. 19, 2002. But Perreault’s was extra special, simply because as the game wore on, fans both in the arena and watching at home started to take notice of just what could have been accomplished. Meanwhile, somewhere in Brandon, Man., an elementary school principal was on the edge of her seat.
“My mother-in-law called me just as [my name] was announced to tell me,” McDonald told TSN 1290 in Winnipeg. “Then I started getting more calls as the goals came in, and my brother had called, and then a lot of people from work, and even people that I had no idea who they were.”
The contest that nearly netted McDonald the payday is one run through western Canada and United States grocer Safeway. If one player manages to score five goals in a single game, the randomly drawn shopper gets their shot at answering a skill-testing question for $1 million.
With Perreault having already chalked up four tallies through two periods, one can imagine that McDonald was holding her breath every time the 27-year-old center stepped onto the ice. Early in the third period, she nearly got her chance to exhale.
Perreault barely saw the ice in the third period, in large part because Winnipeg was up by five goals for much of the final frame. But his breakaway chance, and another shot he took later in the period, were his final chances at the elusive fifth marker.
After the game, Perreault spoke with TSN’s Sara Orlesky, and said he had no idea the promotion existed, looking genuinely distraught about missing his breakaway opportunity. Perreault could do nothing but apologize, saying he felt bad he only scored four times. “I wish I knew,” he said. “Sorry Gail!”
What’s impressive is it’s not the first time Perreault has scored four at the professional level. On Feb. 27, 2010, when playing with the AHL’s Hershey Bears, Perreault registered four goals. Coincidentally, all four of those tallies came in the first two periods of a 9-2 route of the Bridgeport SoundTigers.
Perreault signed a three-year, $9 million deal with the Jets in the off-season, and, four-goal night aside, has been an incredible addition for Winnipeg. Defensively sound and responsible, Perreault has been able to contribute offensively and is a big reason for the drastic turnaround in Winnipeg this season. It doesn’t hurt that over his last 20 games, the 5-foot-10 forward has scored 13 goals and 22 points.
While he may be sorry for not finding the net on his breakaway, there are fans in Winnipeg who can’t thank him enough for an exciting and memorable night at the MTS Centre.