Reborn Patrice Bergeron leads Bruins past Stars
DALLAS — There are many factors involved in the Bruins’ remarkable turnaround. There is the obvious one: The changing of coaches from Claude Julien to Bruce Cassidy, who has now won six of his first seven games behind the bench. There is the fact that the B’s are playing with the lead much more often now as they’ve scored first in six of their last seven. In addition, the call-up of Peter Cehlarik has allowed for the balancing of the forward lines.
But whatever happens with the Bruins from here on out this season, they would be going nowhere if not for the resurrection of Patrice Bergeron as the gold standard of two-way centerman play. And yesterday at the American Airlines Center, Bergeron was in beast mode.
In the B’s 6-3 victory over the Dallas Stars, Bergeron scored two goals (including the game-winner), picked up a pretty assist on the first goal of the game, won 16-of-22 faceoffs, ripped off 10 shots (five on net) and finished a plus-3 with his line. Bergeron was just one of the standouts in a win that saw three of the four forward lines score, allowing the B’s to come home in third place in the Atlantic Division after taking six of a possible eight points on their western road trip.
The B’s have now scored 29 goals and gone 6-1-0 since Cassidy took over.
While it looked like some players were chasing away Mr. Sandman with the early start, especially those in Dallas green, the old pro Bergeron was ready off the hop.
“When your best players are your best players, you’re a good hockey club,” Cassidy said. “We’re no different from any other team that way. He’s really found his game and hopefully he stays hot for us.”
Bergeron missed the first three games of the season with an ankle injury and it took a long time for him to find his game, which is unusual to see from a player who has been as consistent as a metronome. But he’s bounced back in a big way. After recording just 10 points in his first 32 games, Bergeron has 28 in his last 27 contests. The condensed schedule has been tough for a player who is trying to fight through an injury, but it eventually worked in his favor.
“I think all the breaks that we’ve gotten — the All-Star, the bye week, and the few days we got at Christmas — definitely helped me to be back and feeling better and be re-energized,” said Bergeron. “It’s good to be back and feeling good on the ice, all healed up and all that. And obviously feeding off of Brad (Marchand) every night. He’s always out there giving us momentum. I know that my game is both ways and offense has to be a part of it.”
Marchand had a goal and two assists, Torey Krug had three helpers, David Pastrnak had a pair of assists and Ryan Spooner registered a goal and an assist. Tuukka Rask stopped 33-of-36 shots, including a save-of-the-year candidate on Patrick Sharp in the second period.
After David Backes and Jamie Benn renewed old acquaintances with a fight off the opening draw, the B’s scored the first two goals of the game 55 seconds apart, the first with Bergeron slipping a beautiful pass over to Marchand for a wide-open goal. Then before that goal was even announced, David Krejci redirected home a Torey Krug pass — the first of three tipped goals for the B’s — and it was 2-0.
The Stars tied the game in the second, first on a fluky John Klingberg shot that Rask didn’t see with Kevan Miller in front of him, then on a power-play goal by Jiri Hudler.
But before the period was out, the B’s had their two-goal lead back. Frank Vatrano tipped home a Miller pass and, 40 seconds later, Bergeron put a nice redirection of a Marchand pass past Kari Lehtonen to make it 4-2. The Stars never got closer.
In the third, Bergeron wired one under the bar to make it 5-2 and, after Tyler Seguin scored, Spooner finished off the Stars with a late power-play goal.
So as the B’s head home, things are looking up for them. They leap-frogged the Maple Leafs into third place in the division by a point and now have a two-point lead over the Islanders for the second wild card. The B’s own the tiebreaker over both of those teams right now. They play 13 of their final 20 games at home, which has suddenly become a good thing under Cassidy (3-0 at the Garden).
And now, it seems, they’ve got their best all-around player enjoying his best hockey of the year, at the most opportune time.
“Every player goes through slumps,” Marchand said, “but Bergy is way too good of a player not to dominate in this game.”