It’s hats off to Patrice Bergeron as Bruins win home opener
The night before in Chicago, two superstars went mano-a-mano with showy celebrations. Toronto’s Auston Matthews gestured to the crowd after scoring a goal in Sunday’s wild 7-6 win. Chicago’s Patrick Kane responded with a copycat “let me hear it” move, raising his hand to his ear, after his own score. On the bench, Matthews grinned in appreciation.
It was good, theatrical fun, the type the sometimes-dry NHL could use a little more of.
Patrice Bergeron has never been much for showmanship. Even his hat tricks are ho-hum.
On Monday afternoon, Bergeron celebrated the fourth three-goal game of his 15-year career with little more than an embrace of his linemates. Caps rained from the TD Garden stands, as Bergeron patiently circled and waited for the next faceoff.
He is savvy, skilled, and steady — even when recovering from offseason groin surgery that delayed his summer training and forced him to miss the entire preseason. In the 6-3 win over Ottawa, Bergeron delivered, as he has for most of the last 15 years.
“It’s not always part of my game,” said Bergeron, who became the first Bruin with a hat trick in a home opener since Cam Neely in 1995. “They’re definitely nice to have. Lucky bounces and great plays by Pasta and Marshy. We’ll take it.”
It wasn’t clean, but the Bruins maintained an edge over Ottawa after Bergeron scored 30 seconds in on a net-front scramble. They never lost the lead in a game that got to 3-2 on a funky goal that saw only four Bruins on the ice in a five-on-five situation.
Several players and coach Bruce Cassidy pointed to choppy ice conditions that had the puck bouncing everywhere. Anyone who’s been paying attention knows what the China trip did to the Bruins’ preseason.
But three games into the season, the Bruins are 2-1. Monday served as more evidence that last Wednesday’s 7-0 whipping in Washington was an aberration.
“That first one, we kind of wrote that off,” Brad Marchand said. “Bad game.
“I think you expect a little bit of time to get used to each other. We have a lot of new guys and some young players, so a little bit of a learning curve, but the more we work on it in practice, the more we talk in the room, the better we’re going to be.”
As long as they lean on players like Bergeron, who had two goals in the first period to give the Bruins a cushion. And like Marchand, who had a three-assist game to give him seven helpers in his last two games. And like David Pastrnak (two goals), whose defensive play has been an eye-opener for teammates used to seeing No. 88 using his speed to create offensive chances.
“Those are small details that go a long way,” said Bergeron, whose first tally came off a scrum started by Pastrnak’s power move to the net. Bergeron’s second came after he and Marchand settled down a shaky-looking power play along the wall. Eventually, Marchand went backhand to Bergeron for a one-time sweep into the top corner at 17:12 of the first.
“These guys are special players,” said Ottawa defenseman Mark Borowiecki. “They just seem to find pucks. Pucks are always around them, always on their sticks.”
The Bruins weathered a second-period Ottawa push that included two goals from top-line right wing Ryan Dzingel. Both came on coverage breakdowns.
Making matters worse: The Bruins had some of their best players on the ice for the goals — and not always in the appropriate number.
Down, 2-0, and pushing, the Senators hemmed the Bruins in the zone on a long shift for the David Krejci line. Ottawa had three chances, the third of which was Dzingel’s nine-foot goal at 2:21 of the second.
After Walpole native Chris Wagner scored his first goal as a Bruin, on a high-slot tip of a point shot from Charlie McAvoy (three assists), Dzingel teed up a slapper from outside the circle that beat Tuukka Rask (28 saves) through a flash of a screen at 12:13. Because of a mixup in lines, Pastrnak was on the bench, leaving the Bruins four-on-five.
They survived that, and Bergeron made it 4-2 with his third goal at 4:38 of the third. From the wing, he shoveled a backhand off the knee of defenseman Cody Ceci and beat Holliston-raised netminder Mike Condon (24 saves).
The goal seemed to deflate Ottawa. Shortly thereafter, the Senators couldn’t score during 1:16 of a five-on-three advantage, with John Moore (roughing) and Bergeron (puck over glass) in the box. Zdeno Chara saved a goal with the tree branch in his hands.
Bergeron threw a saucer pass to the side of the net for a Pastrnak tap-in at 16:31. Rask shook his head 32 seconds later after allowing a screened goal by Bobby Ryan.
But Pastrnak snapped home an empty-netter from center ice with 1:38 to go.
“Nice to get back in the win column here, back in front of our fans,” said Cassidy, recalling the final home game of 2018, an overtime loss May 4 that set the Bruins down, three games to one, in the second round against Tampa Bay. “Especially this year, the way training camp has been.”
Bergeron was a spectator in September, and like the rest of his teammates, a uniformed one against the Capitals. The Bruins have faced lesser competition (Buffalo and Ottawa will not be raising banners anytime soon), but Bergeron is back to setting the example for his teammates.
“He wants to be the best player on the ice every night,” Marchand said. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself to be really good. He doesn’t give himself excuses.
“He could easily say, ‘I had a tough summer, I missed preseason, I’m going to give myself 10 games to get back into it,’ but he doesn’t accept that. He wants to be the best. That’s why he is.”