BOSTON (AP) — Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron watched his teammates start the season without him, and he watched his would-be linemates shoot to the top of the NHL’s scoring list.
“I thought, ‘Maybe I’m going to be the anchor tonight,'” he joked after scoring the tiebreaking goal with 75 seconds left in his season debut to give Boston a 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night. “They were amazing the first three games.”
After sitting out the season-opening road trip with an unspecified injury, Bergeron returned to practice on Wednesday and took regular shifts in the home opener against New Jersey. He was on the ice when linemate Brad Marchand tied it 1-all with just under 10 minutes left in regulation, and he was there again to one-time the game-winner in at the end.
“He scored a clutch goal for us,” coach Claude Julien said. “That’s what he’s always been: a clutch player.”
Tuukka Rask had 28 saves for the Bruins, who fought off a power play for the last 49 seconds without allowing a shot.
Kyle Palmieri scored for the Devils, and Cory Schneider stopped 34 shots.
The game remained scoreless until Palmieri scored a power-play goal about four minutes into the third period. But Marchand tied it with just under 10 minutes left in regulation — his third goal and eighth point in four games this season.
“(When) you’re lucky enough to have a lead in the third period, it’s a tough pill to swallow, not getting any points out of it,” Palmieri said.
After finishing below .500 at home last season, Julien said he was glad to put on a better show for the Boston fans. “We were all disappointed in our performance here last year,” he said.
Without Bergeron, the Bruins moved David Backes from right wing to center between Marchand and David Pastrnak. They combined for 16 points in the Bruins’ first three games; Marchand ended his night as the NHL’s leading point-scorer, with three goals and six assists for nine points, and Pastrnak had seven.
“You want to start the season, go on the first road trip with the team. It wasn’t easy at all,” Bergeron said. “There was a lot of pulling, on my side, to be back. But we looked at the big picture and this was more reasonable.”
The ceremonial first puck was dropped by 98-year-old former Bruins captain Milt Schmidt, with help from Bobby Orr. It was the 80th and 50th anniversaries, respectively, of their rookie seasons. They each went on to win the Stanley Cup twice, have their numbers retired in Boston and earn induction in the Hall of Fame.
Orr, wearing treads on his shoes, pushed Schmidt out in a wheelchair. He helped his former coach raise his hand to acknowledge the cheering crowd. Several players, including Bergeron and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, came over to say high to the former stars.
“They’re two Bruins legends and hockey legends,” Marchand said. “Any time you’re around them, it’s exciting. You kind of catch yourself watching them, and admiring them.”
Taylor Hall missed an open net early in the third after drawing a penalty that led to the Devils goal. Palmieri delivered early in the power play, shooting it under the bent knee of defender Brandon Carlo and through the legs of the screened goaltender.
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