Patrice Bergeron Continues His Torrid January As Center Paces Bruins to Shootout Win in Florida

Patrice Bergeron Continues His Torrid January As Center Paces Bruins to Shootout Win in FloridaEven when the Bruins are at their worst, they can always count on Patrice Bergeron to give them his best.

It was a sloppy night for the Bruins on Monday in Florida, with far too many defensive breakdowns leading to offensive chances for the Panthers. But Bergeron almost singlehandedly countered those miscues, as he scored both Boston goals in regulation, then extended the shootout to sudden death before the Bruins finally prevailed 3-2 over the Panthers.

"He was by far our best player tonight," Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Bergeron. "He showed up and he played hard and he played smart. He scores two goals in the game and then scores one to keep us in the shootout. He was by far our best player, and that's kind of what Bergy is for us. We can have our highs and lows, but you always know what you're going to get from him."

What the Bruins have been getting from Bergeron this month has been pretty special. In seven games in January, Bergeron now has 7-4-11 totals with a plus-8 rating. It wasn't enough to earn him his first All-Star invite, but it might be too much to ignore when the league selects its injury replacements for the game later this month in Ottawa.

Bergeron has long been one of the top defensive forwards in the league and continues to excel in his own zone. But he's also increased his offensive production with 14-25-39 totals and a plus-28 in 42 games this year. With linemate Brad Marchand, who is second on the team with 16 goals, suspended for five games, Bergeron has even become more of a finisher than a playmaker, with 23 shots in those seven games this month.

That includes a team-high six shots on Monday, two of which found the back of the net. He opened the scoring with a wicked wrister from the high slot just 1:20 into play off a drop pass by Benoit Pouliot, who has filled in admirably for Marchand. Bergeron then added another goal late in the second when he redirected a slap pass from Tyler Seguin on a two-man advantage.

Bergeron couldn't complete the hat trick, but he did score a third time. After Stephen Weiss scored on the opening shot of the third round of the shootout, Bergeron stepped to center ice needing a goal to keep the Bruins alive. He delivered with a forehand beating Scott Clemmensen stick-side, and David Krejci followed with a goal in the first sudden-death round to secure the Bruins victory.

"I had to do the job," Bergeron said. "I had to score for my team, and I was fortunate enough to do it."

Bergeron had to do it because once again there were some passengers along for the ride with the Bruins. The effort was better than Saturday in Carolina, but far from perfect. It was enough, though, thanks largely to Bergeron.

"It was a lot better," Bergeron said. "We still made some mistakes that we can avoid and it would have made the job a lot easier for us. But still we found a way to win the game tonight, so it was a good effort.

"We've got to carry that over for [Tuesday] night," Bergeron added of the upcoming clash with Tampa Bay. "It was a big team effort [Monday]. I think it was a hard-fought battle. It was a tough game to win, but we found a way, and that's what we need."

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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