By Phil Stacey
---- — BOSTON — In the 89-year history of the franchise, there have only been eight men who could be unequivocally be termed as ‘Ultimate’ Bruins.
Eddie Shore, Milt Schmidt, Johnny Bucyk, Bobby Orr, Terry O’Reilly, Ray Bourque and Cam Neely all fit the mold like Black-and-Gold ice cubes into a tray of greatness. Each of them are instantly linked with the spoked-B and all that it stands for, symbols of what it means to play for this team in this town and never giving an inch in their quest to be the best.
The eighth man in that group, one whose name and number will someday join the aforementioned seven in the Garden rafters, is Patrice Bergeron.
It’s now a best-of-3 battle to see who takes home the Stanley Cup after Chicago won Game 4 in overtime last night, 6-5, at TD Garden thanks to a Brent Seabrook slapshot. But Bergeron did everything in his power to give Boston the two-game advantage it so desperately wanted, but ultimately fell short of achieving.
“It was one of those games that was very up and down,” said Bergeron in the Boston locker room afterwards. “We had some breakdowns that we need to adjust, but we did some good things to come back in the game. So you have to look at both sides.
“But at the end of the day we didn’t get the result, so we need to make sure we’re back at it Saturday (for Game 5).”
The all-time greats make their career-defining plays when it matters most, and Bergeron willingly took that mantle last night. His team down by two goals late in the second period, the soon-to-be 28-year-old took over.
The entire series has produced five power play goals, and Bergeron has three of them. The third of those came late in the second stanza when the home team desperately needed something good to happen and St. Patrice delivered, following a puck that ricocheted off the back glass and onto the top of Chicago’s net before bouncing directly in front of goaltender Corey Crawford. Without breaking stride, Bergeron got the puck on his stick and roofed a shot over Crawford’s glove, cutting the Boston deficit to 4-3.
His second goal of the evening — and sixth in the last seven games, and career-high ninth of the playoffs — was better simply because it tied the contest just 2:05 into the third period. The tally was born from equal parts sheer hard work on the chemistry between linemates. Jaromir Jagr worked the puck down low wall, lost it, got it back and played give-and-go along the wall with Bergeron. On his backhand, Bergeron curled off the half-boards out to the top of right circle and fired, beating Crawford cleanly (what else?) glove side.
Clutch? Webster’s might need to create another definition that includes Bergeron’s credentials and headshot. This is the guy who scored the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup two years ago. The guy who is universally known as one of the best two-way centers on earth. The guy who has come back from four concussions (that we know of) without missing a beat. The guy who leads the NHL in faceoffs won by a healthy margin; the guy who scored the game-tying (in the final minute) and game-winning (in OT) goals to beat Toronto in Game 7 last month; the guy who scored in double-OT to topple Pittsburgh in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals; the guy who provides more intangibles than the ocean has fish.
The guy who is in line for a megabucks payday and a contract that will likely ensure he wears only Black-and-Gold for all of his NHL days.
In a series that is showing the earmarks of one of the all-time great Stanley Cup finals — three OT games in the first four contests give it that instant credibility — Bergeron and his mates will be asked to do even more in Games 5, 6 ... and possibly a Game 7.
Was this a missed opportunity for the Bruins?
“You can’t look at it that way,” said Bergeron. “because now there’s nothing you can do about it. So it’s about the next game.”
Phil Stacey is the sports editor of The Salem News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 978-338-2650, and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN.