BOSTON – Patrice Bergeron bears the scrapes and bruises of a man that’s paid the price during this spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs, and the hockey gods have rewarded him greatly for his sacrifices.
“It's all good,” said Bergeron, when asked about the lasting remnants of his Game 1 scrap with Evgeni Malkin. “We go in there, we're all buying in for a team, and that's fine.”
The reigning Selke Trophy winner has done a marvelous job of holding down Sidney Crosby in this Eastern Conference Finals series, and has also become Mr. Clutch while popping in the game-winning goal in double overtime in a 2-1 win in Game 3 at TD Garden. It wasn't quite as pulse-pounding as his game-tying and game-winning scores in the Game 7 comeback vs. the Leafs, but it's clearly given him the confidence to make plays when it matters most.
It was also Bergeron's third career game-winning goal in overtime, which ties a Bruins franchise record held by Mel Hill and Terry O'Reilly.
Brad Marchand and Bergeron once again used their chemistry to account for the goal with No. 37 cutting to the net and redirecting a puck that the Nose Face Killah threw to the front of the net. Bergeron beat Brooks Orpik to the front of the net with his stick blade in a play that the duo has successfully pulled off in big moments time and time again during these playoffs.
The goal gives Bergeron his second overtime game-winner of the playoffs, and also gives Bergeron and Marchand their second game-winning connection after they did the exact same thing, in reverse, against the New York Rangers in Game 1. His admiring teammate Zdeno Chara is becoming the go to guy for game-winning plays in the playoffs, and he proved it again in a big Game 3 victory.
“Patrice [Bergeron] had a great stick. He seems to be the man to look for at [key] times, so it was just again a simple play driving down to the net,” said Chara. “[Patrice] had a good strong stick on both locations on the red line and obviously on the drive to the net.”
Bergeron has 10 points (five goals, five assists), a plus-4 and is playing lockdown defense while averaging 20:15 of ice time in the playoffs, but, just like his nature, the center is quick to defer to teammates that helped set up his game-winning play. Without Jagr’s muscle along the side boards against the much-younger Malkin and Marchand’s unerringly accurate saucer pass from the boards, the Bruins and Penguins might still be playing.
“First of all, a great play by Jags to take that puck on the wall there and just fight and get the loose puck to Marsh,” said Bergeron. “We do have that chemistry where we know where we're going on the ice.
“I knew he was going to try to find me there if I was driving the net. I just went to the net and tried to have my stick on the ice, and he found me.”
It wasn’t Bergeron’s best effort on Wednesday night, though, which in some ways made it all the more impressive. He lost a defensive zone face-off to Sidney Crosby that led to Pittsburgh’s only goal of the game, and Sid the Kid battled him well while limiting Bergeron to 13 wins in 35 face-off attempts.
But Bergeron kept at it in a career-high 31:59 of ice time, and outhustled Orpik on the game-winning goal created from Jaromir Jagr, beating Evgeni Malkin in a one-on-one neutral zone battle.
“Bergy [Patrice Bergeron], he does everything right, and it’s the little things like that that make him such a great player,” said Marchand. “The way he drove to the net and Orpik, he’s a very big guy, very strong, and the way he battled him and put that puck in, it shows that he can do everything. We’re very lucky to have him.”
Bergeron has always been respected for his face-off proficiency and his hard-nosed defensive abilities, and has done a nice job of adding clutch scorer to that lengthening list during this season’s playoff run.