In the lead-up to the Olympics, the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron said he hadn’t spoken to coach Claude Julien or general manager Peter Chiarelli — both part of Team Canada — about his role in Sochi, Russia. But he might have been trying to buy himself some extra ice time with his performance on Saturday.
Bergeron had said before the game against the Senators that he was hoping to “go out there and play well, have a big role” on a loaded Canadian team, after being a faceoff and penalty kill specialist four years ago in Vancouver.
And he played like it against Ottawa.
Not only did Bergeron score twice and add an assist, increasing his season total to 16 goals, but one of them was of highlight-reel quality, as the center faked a shot on Craig Anderson, then put it past the goaltender on the backhand after he bit on the fake at 4:55 of the second. That put the Bruins ahead, 3-0, on their way to a dominating 7-2 win at TD Garden, their best offensive production in a game this season.
“It does give you some confidence when the puck is rolling for you and you have some puck luck,” Bergeron said. “It’s always good.”
The rout completed the Bruins’ pre-break plan. In their final 11 games before the Olympics, they went 8-1-2, earning points in all but their loss to Montreal, and coming out with 18 of a possible 22 points in the span, even as they played the final two games without captain Zdeno Chara.
“I was pretty impressed with our whole approach to this game where there could have been a lot of distractions and everything else,” Julien said. “Our guys just played so well today. Puck was moving well, good decisions all around. It was a real solid game for us and a great way to finish.”
But for the Senators, who are trying to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference, it was “obviously an embarrassing game,” as forward Jason Spezza put it. Or, as Ottawa coach Paul MacLean said, “We probably owe them a couple of bucks for the clinic they put on today.”
“I think we wanted to finish on a good note, and think everyone knew that we wanted to finish on a good note,” Bruins goalie Chad Johnson said. “The guys from the start of the game right to the finish were dialed in, so it was good to see.”
Bergeron started the scoring for the Bruins at 11:36 of the first period on the power play. Carl Soderberg directed a pass to Bergeron in front of the Ottawa goal on a give-and-go. The puck bounced awkwardly, but Bergeron was able to stay with the play, and popped it past Anderson.
The Bruins made it 2-0 not long after, with an onrushing Chris Kelly perfectly redirecting a pass from David Warsofsky past Anderson at 16:26. It was Kelly’s first goal since Oct. 19, and his fourth this season. Kelly had three goals in the Bruins’ first seven games but had gone scoreless since, including the seven weeks he was out with his fractured fibula.
After Bergeron pushed the lead to three, Ottawa’s Bobby Ryan beat Johnson at 17:15 of the second. But just 63 seconds later, Jarome Iginla scored his 17th of the season on a feed from David Krejci.
It was, as Krejci said, the Bruins showing “killer instinct.”
“I think we kind of discouraged them a little bit with that goal,” Julien said.
And that continued, with the Bruins adding three more goals in the third period, with scores from Milan Lucic (3:35), Brad Marchand (8:26), and Soderberg (16:53).
“The puck was kind of following us around,” defenseman Kevan Miller said. “It was one of those nights where everything was clicking and everybody showed up to play, so it was just a big game today.”
It was a game, too, that will send the Bruins off to the Olympic break on a good note. Most of the team now gets 10 days of rest — with vacations planned to places such as the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Arizona, and California — with the remainder heading off to Sochi for a bit more of a demanding schedule.
Fortunately for them, no matter where they were headed, they managed to accomplish the goal of the last three weeks before the break, and find themselves exactly where they want to be — at the top of the Atlantic Division, with a sizable lead on second-place Tampa Bay.
“You expect that with the kind of team and the kind of players you have, you kind of expect that,” Julien said. “But you’re also impressed by the way they’ve been able to, throughout this whole segment, not to sway away from it or [deviate] from it.
“Everything that could’ve happened didn’t. No matter what — Zdeno left, our game didn’t change. If anything, we played even better because we knew that we lost a big piece of our team back there. The guys on the back end played so well and responded so extremely well under the circumstances.”
Or, as Krejci said, “I feel like the last 10 or so games we’ve played really well. So we don’t want to look ahead. We don’t want to look to the playoffs. We want to come back after the break and start where we left off.”