May 28, 2011

Closing seconds extra special for Bergeron

by Jesse Connolly

Bruins center Patrice Bergeron celebrates with coach Claude Julien after Game 7 against the Lightning. (Getty)

BOSTON -- For the better part of two decades, Boston has been a city continuously disappointed by its hockey team. No current Bruin knows that more than Patrice Bergeron.

As an 18-year-old rookie, Bergeron arrived here nearly eight years ago. After two first-round losses to the Montreal Canadiens (the latter of which he was not part of, due to a concussion), sandwiched around a lockout and two-straight seasons in which the Black and Gold missed the dance, No. 37 finally won his first playoff series in the spring of 2009.

But the Bruins' and their gifted alternate captain went through heartache these past two springs, bowing out in the second round via torturous Game 7 losses to the Hurricanes and Flyers. Some say you have to lose to know how to win, so perhaps Bergeron and the B's have their painful playoff exits to thank for the fact that they're now headed to the Stanley Cup Finals after defeating the Lightning in Game 7 on Friday night.

"Obviously we had to learn from the last two years, from what happened," said Bergeron. "I think we did and I’m very proud of all the guys. The way we did it, we believed in ourselves, we stopped worrying about what people were thinking about us.

"We went out there and we did it. I don’t think anyone would say that it’s easy to get to the Finals. So the way that we did it, I think we showed a lot of character."

Left for dead after falling behind by two games to the Canadiens, then presumed to be bound for more disappointment against the Flyers in the second round, the Bruins silenced their critics once again by eliminating the Lightning.

"Yeah, I mean, I think so," Bergeron said when asked if his team had something to prove in each series. "But at the same time we believed in ourselves and we were confident that we could do it. But yeah, I think you’re right, it was a lot of doubters. Even tonight, looking on the outside, a lot of people were thinking Tampa was going to win. 

"But we believed in ourselves, and it was a tough game, it was a tough series. But no one said it was going to be easy to get to the Finals, and we found a way."

With a 1-0 lead and just seconds remaining in the game, Zdeno Chara had the puck near his own goal line without a single Tampa Bay player in his vicinity. Bergeron made a waving motion at the Bruins captain to slow down, all the while realizing he was on the cusp of celebrating the biggest moment of his NHL career.

"I mean, I think it was like ten seconds, so it was just about killing that time and I couldn’t wait to go jump on 'Timmy' [Tim Thomas] and enjoy the moment," Bergeron said. "But still, we had to play those ten seconds. I tried to tell him he had a little bit of time, not too much, but still a little bit of time. And he made a great D-to-D just to buy, again, some more seconds and that was the game right there."

A hand motion certainly had to suffice at that moment, as TD Garden became louder than perhaps it ever has since opening way back in the fall of 1995.

"It was amazing," Bergeron said of the atmosphere in the building. "To be honest, it was almost a bit of a blur. I was trying to stay focused but I couldn't really hear the crowd. I was so focused on the puck and making sure we were getting those seconds down."

And in the midst of his jubilant celebration, Bergeron couldn't help but think about how long it took him to get to this point and how great a feeling it is to help bring the Hub of Hockey to within just four victories of the Stanley Cup.

"After I went to see Timmy there, the building was amazing," Bergeron said. "It was so loud. The win was great for the city but also us as a team. I've been here for eight years and I can call Boston my second home. It's amazing."