Bergeron, Bruins Find a Way
BostonBruins.com - It was just past midnight in Boston. The Garden crowd stood on their feet all the way into double overtime. How could you be tired when the battlers in front of you playing 90-plus minutes of all-or-nothing hockey were willing themselves to be the first to find the back of the net? The ooh's and ahh's were a plenty and the adrenaline a pumpin'.
If we're talking about "will," then it's no surprise that at 15:19 into the fifth period of playoff hockey, it was overtime hero Patrice Bergeron finding a way to will the puck past Tomas Vokoun, lifting the Black & Gold to the 2-1 win, and 3-0 series lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Bergeron always finds a way.
He found a way in Game Seven against Toronto, taking the B's from a disappointing first-round exit, to one of the greatest comebacks in history. He tied it with 51 seconds to go; he sent his team into the second round with the winner in extra time. In Game One against New York, he perfectly set up Brad Marchand back door for the overtime-winner, and the momentum hasn't let up.
In 2011, when Game Seven was on the line for that shiny chalice of glory, Bergeron stunned Vancouver with the night's first goal, and it was the game-winner. He then put a shorthander past to give the B's a commanding three-goal lead.
He hadn't scored all series up until that point, but did it matter? Bergeron always finds a way.
So, in the early hours of Thursday morning, with a 3-0 lead of the series on the line, after playing 95:19 of hockey, Bergeron somehow found the gear to drive down the middle towards the net, get inside positioning on Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik, and direct a perfect tape-to-tape pass from Brad Marchand through Vokoun.
That uncontrollable jump of jubilation from Bergeron you remember from those overtime winners? He got to do it again.
"We found a way, I guess. That's the only way you've got to look at it," said Bergeron following the exhausting win, as he sat at the press conference podium, his black Bruins' hat barely shielding his "playoff hockey" face that shows the gash from the Game One bout with Evgeni Malkin on the bridge of his nose, red forming around his right eye.
"It wasn't necessarily our best effort in the first 60. But I thought we re-grouped well in overtime and we had some really good chances in the first overtime, and we kept battling and we said that we have to find a way somehow, and we did in the second overtime."
"You've just got to find a way, just keep battling."
He was wearing the B's "Player of the Game" Army Rangers jacket he was also donning following that Game Seven OT win. It has made its rounds 11 times this postseason, and it all started when the jacket was specialized and given to the Bruins from the Army Rangers; in return, they wear it to show support.
"They live by a slogan, 'Rangers Lead the Way,'" Andrew Ference has said. "So I think it's fitting to give this to a player that led the way for us in a game. It's important to have guys step up."
Funny thing about Bergeron is, he steps up every game. But when the stakes are higher, and everyone is stepping up, the Bruins' alternate captain starts running up those same steps three at a time.
"Bergy, he does everything right," said his long-time linemate Marchand. "And it’s little things like that that make him such a great player. The way he drove to the net and [Brooks] 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, and we’re very lucky to have him."
Only David Krejci had the same amount of shifts as Bergeron in Game Three - 49. That number blew away all of the forwards, and edged all defensemen.
He's put out on the ice in the direst of situations. Because he always finds a way.
"Just a simple play to the net and Patrice had, again, a great stick," said Captain Zdeno Chara, who was on the ice for the winner. "He seemed to be the man to look for at times, so it was just again a simple play driving down to the net and then [Patrice] had a good strong stick on both locations on the redline and obviously, on the drive to the net."
The win was a team effort - it came with everyone buying in. It came with Tuukka Rask making 53 of 54 saves - many of them Grade-A scoring chances, Zdeno Chara logging 42:05 in ice time, Gregory Campbell powering through a painful shot block for nearly 45 seconds to keep the penalty kill a perfect on the series against one of the league's most potent power plays. It came with Krejci's NHL-leading ninth goal of the postseason just 1:24 into the game. It also came with little details.
But I talk about Bergeron here, because, frankly, he deserves his credit, and you won't ever find him talking about himself.
In fact, when he was asked the first question about his goal at the press conference podium postgame, he couldn't wait to give props to his teammates.
"It was first of all a great play by Jags [Jaromir Jagr] to take that puck on the wall there and just fighting and getting the loose puck to March," said Bergeron. "And we 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, and I just went to the net and tried to have my stick on the ice, and he found me."
Marchand's pass was perfect. The three aforementioned big-time game-winners by Bergeron? All assisted by his left winger. The pair always find each other on the ice.
And now that Jagr is in the mix, he's starting to find them as well. The 41-year-old is also beginning to find another gear in the postseason. Two goals in the past two games have come from him finishing a check along the boards.
Earlier in the day, prior to the game, I sat down with Bergeron to break down his goal off the perfect feed from Jagr in Game Two (foreshadowing?) He said he could feel the chemistry building amongst the trio.
"I think he's got that experience, to always be at the right place on the ice, and on that play it's just a perfect example that he's buying in and he wants to help in any way he can," said Bergeron. "And that play right there, we don't get a goal if he doesn't make that play."
Bergeron and the Bruins notice the little details - they pride themselves on them. Whether its his linemates Jagr or Marchand, or the all-heart Gregory Campbell.
"Again, we're talking about details, we're talking about little things that goes a long way, and that block, that was Soupy. That's the way he is," said Bergeron, of Campbell's gutsy shift. "He sacrifices the body always for the team, for the better of the team. Obviously we tried to rally behind that and do it for him because he's a big part of our team on and off the ice."
The props weren't also put towards his teammates, but also, the opposing team, who now sits with an 0-3 deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals.
"Well, I really believe that Pittsburgh has been through it before. They have the experience, so we know it's not over. We've really got to make sure we're even better in Game 4 and we know they will. They're a great team, and we respect them, and we've just got to be in the moment."
"We can't get over-excited about three wins -- because we need four."
And if the battered face of Bergeron tells any story, it's that they'll do whatever it takes - little details, big goals - to find a way to win.
"We go out there, we're all buying in for the team."