The start of the Boston Bruins season saw one of their most valuable players watching from above, as Patrice Bergeron suffered an injury just before the regular season got underway. His absence was noticeable not only in the many things he does on the ice, but also in the overall cohesiveness he seems to cultivate among the players in the locker room. So it was with happiness that the team was able to add him and David Backes back into the lineup as the Bruins returned to TD Garden after a less than impressive, albeit short, road trip Thursday night. It was even more important to have them back with the placement of Ryan Spooner on the injured reserve list and the announcement that the unfortunate collision between Anders Bjork and Tuukka Rask at Wednesday’s practice had resulted in Rask suffering a concussion.
For the Bruins, it was their annual Hockey Fights Cancer night, which included the wearing of the lavender warm up jerseys that will be auctioned off, as well as the recognition of cancer survivors—including the ceremonial puck drop by Layla Flint.
The Vancouver Canucks scored the first goal of the game, with Derek Dorsett getting credit though the puck deflected off a Bruins player in front of Anton Khudobin. However, the Bruins would not languish, instead responding 31 seconds later off the stick of Anders Bjork, from Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Unfortunately for the Canucks, at 6:13, Eric Gudbranson would be whistled for a five-minute major penalty for boarding Frank Vatrano, who would be slow to get up and end up going down the tunnel. Vatrano would return later, but Gudbranson would not. He would get another five minutes for fighting when the Bruins Tim Schaller jumped in to defend the injured Vatrano. Finally he was given a game misconduct—and it was announced after the game that he would have a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Thursday.
The following five minutes of power play for the Bruins would result in a flurry of goals, the first being a 200-foot unassisted play by David Pastrnak halfway through the major penalty. Twenty-three seconds later, Bjork would get his second of the game, this time assisted by David Krejci and Charlie McAvoy, and 1:14 after that Krejci would get another one, with Bergeron getting his second assist on the night, along with AHL call-up Kenny Agostino getting the other.
That goal by Krejci signaled the end of the night for another of the Canucks’ players—goaltender Anders Nilsson, who would watch the rest of the game from the bench. Jacob Markstrom would come in and calm things down. The Bruins headed to the lock room during the first intermission with a healthy three-goal lead.
The second period would see a lot of north and south play for the first half before Marchand got his fourth goal of the season, an even strength goal assisted by Bjork and Bergeron, who now had a three-point night, giving the Bruins a 5-1 lead.
Ten minutes later the Canucks would do their best to change the momentum, getting a power play goal from Thomas Vanek, who always seems to score on the Bruins regardless of the team he is playing with. Thirty-four seconds later Bo Horvat would get an even strength goal and cut a little further into the Bruins lead. Just as the buzzer signaled the end of the second period, McAvoy would get whistled for a slash—his second of the game—which would result in the Bruins starting the third down a man.
“We knew they were going to have a push. We had a lapse in about three or four minutes,” defenseman Kevin Miller said after the game. “We came back in the room, grabbed our composure. We know how to win in this room, and we wanted to make sure we went out and had a good third, and I think we did that.”
And indeed they did. They killed off the penalty to McAvoy and the additional slashing penalty to Marchand eight minutes into the period. Khudobin would keep the pucks out despite the Canucks opportunities early in the period. And Bergeron would seal the deal with his first goal of the season—and his fourth point of the game—at 11:53, assisted by Pastrnak and Marchand.
It was clear that Marchand was feeling very comfortable having his line mate back.
“It’s incredible the way he came back and dominated the game after being out for that long, and you know, again, he’s just such a big part of the group,” Marchand said of his line mate. “He’s able to calm things down in the room, on the bench, and he leads by example. You know, he just does everything that a top guy does.”
“His brain, it’s ridiculous,” Backes said of Bergeron’s abilities despite not being at peak condition yet. “He and [Marchand], they might be twins like the Sedins [Henrik and Daniel]. They always know where each other are and that comes from playing together forever.”
To say the team was thrilled to have Bergeron back would be an understatement, but the man himself was equally pleased to be back on the ice after having to watch the first five games.
“It’s hard no matter what it is. You know, when you’re missing games, when you’re missing time,” Bergeron shared. “You miss being out there with the guys and battling with them and going through what we have to go through as a team, so you know, it’s good to be back.”
Going forward, Bergeron who played 20:58, just one second less than Marchand, will hopefully continue to heal completely so that he doesn’t have to sit out and future games. His teammates certainly appreciate his play as well as his demeanor in the locker room and on the bench.
The Bruins return to TD Garden on Saturday evening to take on the Buffalo Sabres—who recently signed Jack Eichel to an eight-year contract extension worth ten million a year. The Sabres have played seven games so far this season and are 1-4-2. It will be interesting to see if the Bruins–with Bergeron’s return–can continue to play to their strengths. With the two road losses, they could definitely use a winning streak of more than one game.