BOSTON – Patrice Bergeron has always been known for the extraordinary during his 15 years with the Boston Bruins.
That was the case again on Saturday afternoon as No. 37 returning to the B’s lineup after missing the last 16 games with a chest injury, and proceeded to score a pair of goals and factor in three B’s goals while helping them roll to a 5-3 win over the Nashville Predators at TD Garden. Bergeron kicked off the scoring in the second period when he roamed through the slot, took a Charlie McAvoy drop-down pass and then threw a double-move on a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie, Pekka Rinne, before snapping a wrist shot into the net for his 10th goal of the season.
For just about anybody else in the NHL it would have been impossible to have a game like that after missing the previous five weeks, but it was simply Bergeron being Bergeron.
“[Bergeron] is one of the best players in the league. You know, it shows a lot. The fact that he is able to come back and just jump into the game and get four points against a team like Nashville who is one of top teams in the league [is impressive],” said Bergeron’s longtime partner-in-crime Brad Marchand. “They play very fast. Probably one of the faster games we have had all year. It’s tough to jump in after five weeks and feel good. He is an incredible leader and player and he showed that again tonight.
“Just the chemistry that we have had and the amount of time we have played together. Sometimes there can be a hole when one of us goes down. But, it’s a lot of fun, he is an incredible player. He makes so many great plays. He is so easy to read off of, so it’s a lot of fun having him back.”
It would have been a full day for many returning players to simply have the one goal, but Bergeron scored again in the third period while scooping up a loose puck in front of the Boston at the tail end of a B’s power play. Then Bergeron assisted on each of the next two goals to finish off with two goals, four points and a plus-2 rating in a busy 16:25 of ice time.
He was dominant on the power play with the offense flowing through him at the bumper spot, and was as dogged on the penalty kill as ever. He also took 25 draws over the course of the game, so it was the same old Bergeron on so many different levels in the best way possible.
And what about the icing on top of the Bergeron sundae?
That would be the fact that his second goal of the game was also the 300th of his NHL career, which is another in a line of milestones that should include playing in his 1,000th NHL game at the beginning of February. True to Bergeron fashion, he said he had no idea about the significance of the goal when the referee skated over to him with the puck after he scored.
“I actually didn’t know,” said Bergeron. “The ref came with the puck on the bench, and he was like, ‘Oh it’s 300’, and I had actually no idea. I was like, ‘No, I don’t think it’s me, [maybe] someone else.’ Then he was like, ‘Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s you.’ So, that’s how much I keep up with my stats.”
As much as Bergeron brings the noise as a game-breaking offensive performer and a defensive shutdown guy that put the clamps on Ryan Johansen on Saturday, it’s also about the energy and leadership that comes along with his presence. It was clear to see over the last few days that the familiar No. 37 brought a little extra life into a B’s group that had been grinding for a while, and that was apparent on the ice against a strong Nashville team.
“It felt great. That’s what I told the guys. Sometimes when you’re in it, you play for a while – it’s game whatever, 35 of the season – and you don’t appreciate it as much,” said Bergeron. “I told them to be thankful because I’ve been missing it for so long.
“It’s one of those things that I was just trying to talk to the guys and be vocal that we’ve got to enjoy it, and just go out there and have fun.”
So now Bergeron is back in the fold and once again rolling with Marchand on his left, and giving Danton Heinen a try on the right side. Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller are not far behind with next week as a realistic time for their return, and Jake DeBrusk is poised to make a return sooner rather than later as well.
So the B’s are getting fully healthy pretty quickly.
But none of the others figure to have the kind of team-altering performance like Bergeron did on Saturday when he made it clear the best player in Black and Gold was back at full strength for his appreciative hockey club.
Not that it should have surprised anybody given the way Bergeron makes the spectacular look routine just about every time he takes the ice.
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