Bergeron returned to action after missing the first two games of the series with a mild concussion, and he didn't miss a beat as he stepped right back into his spot centering the second line and contributing to both the power play and the penalty kill as he helped lead the Bruins to a 2-0 win over the Lightning in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final at St. Pete Times Forum.
"I felt pretty good out there," Bergeron said. "I was pretty happy to be back to help the team. I didn't know which game [I'd be back], it was more a matter of taking it a day at a time. It felt good for the past week, so I decided I was ready to go. I had some practices this week and I had a little bit of contact with the extra guys on game day last game and I felt good."
Bergeron played 19:13 over 29 shifts, putting two shots on net and blocking another at the defensive end. He also took 28 faceoffs, winning 18 of them (64 percent), helping the Bruins win 57 percent of the draws as a team.
"He's very good, not just at both ends of the ice but just in all areas of the arena, whether it's in the faceoff circle or in our defensive corner, in the offensive corner, all over the place," Bruins goalie Tim Thomas said. "And it was great to have him back. The most important thing is his health. So when I saw him get hit there against Philadelphia, it wasn't a fun thing for me to watch, and I'm just glad that he's feeling better. But since he is feeling better, he's back and he definitely made a difference for us like he always does, and like he has been this whole playoffs. He's one of the best, if not the best, player on the team."
There was plenty of concern for Bergeron after he went down on a hit from Philadelphia's Claude Giroux early in the third period of Game 4 of Boston's sweep of the Flyers. That sweep helped give Bergeron some extra time to heal, and fortunately this injury was nowhere as severe as the concussion that cost him almost all of the 2007-08 season after being hit from behind by Randy Jones or the one he suffered in a collision with current teammate and then Hurricane Dennis Seidenberg the following season.
"From my experience, I tried to take it a day at a time," Bergeron said. "I didn't want to put pressure on myself. When you do that, it can make it worse. So obviously, I was confident. I knew it was mild, and I felt good. But we didn't want to take any chances, any risk. And I felt like today was — I felt good.
I was confident that I was ready, and the doctors and trainers were in the same boat as me. So it was time for me to be out there."
Bergeron looked like his normal self on Thursday. He felt that way, too.
"To be honest with you, I felt pretty good out there," Bergeron said. "I felt like I was myself. I felt good.
Maybe in the first period I was kind of keeping things simple, which I think it's pretty normal, you know, coming back from — I missed two weeks. Even though I only missed two games, it was two weeks. So I kept it simple, and as the game went on, I felt like I was feeling better. And I think it's about making plays, making sure when I have the puck, just know where my teammates are out there in the offensive zone, and I felt like it got better as the game went on."
Having witnessed the effects of Bergeron's previous concussions, as well as the concussions that have Marc Savard sidelined indefinitely, the Bruins took the cautious route with Bergeron and insisted they would not have risked rushing him back.
"If that would have been a concern, I don't think we would have dressed him tonight," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "When we decided to dress him, he was 100 percent and we felt confident about that. So that hit certainty wasn't a concern and when I talked to Patrice today and he was cleared, my first question to him was, 'Are you comfortable coming back?' And there was no doubt in his mind. He said, 'I'm fine, I'm ready to go.' And that was something that was important for everybody."
Once it was determined that Bergeron was fit to play, it was just a matter of how much he could contribute after his two-week layoff. There were no issues there, as he was again a top performer in all aspects of the game for the Bruins.
"I really liked the way he played. Obviously, you see the difference he can make for our hockey club faceoff-wise, but also his responsibility on both ends of the ice," Julien said. "His line was definitely better. His linemates obviously felt comfortable because they had been with him all year. So there was some chemistry there and that certainly helped us tonight. I liked the fact that we had our four lines that were pretty stable and pretty good for us and pretty reliable."