It’s been a long time coming for Patrice Bergeron and the Boston Bruins.
Bergeron didn’t miss a beat as he quickly shook off the rust from his 16-game absence — and achieved another milestone — en route to a four-point performance (two goals, two assists) on Saturday afternoon.
“I was very excited before the game,” Bergeron said about his first game following his rib injury in Dallas on Nov. 16. “It’s one of those things where you get the adrenaline going, and you get the nervousness right before [the game] that’s actually a good thing. I was looking forward to that for a while, so I was very happy this morning that I was back at it.”
The Bruins extended their win streak to three straight as Bergeron picked up right where he left off. Here is what we learned from Boston’s 5-2 victory at TD Garden.
“He’s one of the best players in the league, and it show’s why,” Brad Marchand said about his longtime linemate. “You know, the fact that he was able to come back and, not just to come into a game and play four points against a team like Nashville, who is one of the top teams in the league.”
This obviously isn’t the first time that Bergeron returned from a lengthy absence. Yet, he seemingly never misses a beat — regardless of the Bruins’ opponent — whenever he returns from injury.
The four-time Selke winner never skated in the preseason. But again, he picked up right where he left off from the previous year with Marchand and David Pastrnak. Together, the trio formed one of the best top lines in the entire National Hockey League.
With Jake DeBrusk still nursing a concussion, head coach Bruce Cassidy opted to break up Pastrnak and Marchand, who had an equally impressive run with David Krejci centering the duo over the past few games. Marchand stayed with Bergeron with Danton Heinen filling Pastrnak’s void on Saturday.
Heinen and Marchand developed decent chemistry for a duo that’s rarely skated together. Bergeron’s presence alone provided the two with time and space against an injury-riddled but stout Predators defensive unit.
Bergeron did his part with four points, three of which came in the third period. Not bad for a day of work that also included a 52 percent success rate from the faceoff dot and a pair of takeaways in 16:25 of ice time.
“It’s tough to play like that after five weeks and feel good,” Marchand added. “He’s an incredible player and leader, and he showed that again tonight.”
What else can be said about Bergeron that hasn’t been said already? How about the 300th career goal that he notched in the third period to put the Bruins ahead 2-1.
Bergeron joined Johnny “Chief” Bucyk, Ray Bourque, Phil Esposito, Rick Middleton and team President Cam Neely in the team’s 300-goal department. The five others have their numbers hung high above the Garden rafters. Four of the five are in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
The Bruins’ alternate captain never realized the honor until the referee handed the puck over to the bench following his power-play tally early in the third. Bergeron, in typical fashion, deflected the significance of another honor from his illustrious career.
“I actually didn’t know and the ref came with the puck on the bench, and he was like, ‘Oh it’s 300’, and I had actually no idea,” Bergeron said. “So I thought – I was like, ‘No, I don’t think it’s me. Like, someone else,’ and then he was like, ‘Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s you.’ So, that’s how I keep up with my stats.”
The next question: where will Bergeron display that puck? In his trophy case?
“I don’t know. I’ll probably give it to my parents. I don’t know what I’m doing with those pucks; I couldn’t tell you where the other ones are,” Bergeron said while prompting another round of chuckles.
Perhaps some of those pucks will be stored in the hallowed hockey halls of Toronto when Bergeron’s career is over.
Bruins persevere through Preds equalizers, goaltender interference
Bruce Cassidy still needed timely responses from his squad after the Predators countered Bergeron’s tallies to tie things up twice. The third-year Bruins’ bench boss got exactly that.
First came the head-scratching goaltender interference ruling that waived Charlie McAvoy’s second-period tally. Instead of a two-goal lead, Ryan Johansen tallied his sixth of the season to tie things up at 1-1 at 13:01 of the middle stanza.
Bergeron took advantage of the early third-period power play that began with 1:05 of 5-on-3 time. Yet, the Bruins needed another counter after Kyle Turris’ equalizer at 9:17.
They never wavered. The Bruins’ offensive attack kept the Preds on their heels and they took the lead for good following Pastrnak’s brilliant feed on Marchand’s power play tally at 11:23 of the final stanza. The duo added an insurance marker on a 2-on-1 leading to Pastrnak’s 23rd of the season at 14:09.
“We didn’t give up, or it didn’t affect us too much,” said Jaroslav Halak, who made 28 saves and even tallied an assist on Sean Kuraly’s empty-netter at 18:01. “I think we kept playing well even though we could have led and with the goalie interference it’s one-nothing and they tied it. So, I don’t think we slowed down or anything. We kept playing.”
Halak and the Bruins persevered without Bergeron and stayed afloat in a tough Atlantic Division. Bergeron’s return — and Boston’s subsequent victory — gave the 17,565 on Causeway Street an early Christmas present.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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