VANCOUVER -- It was just four seasons ago that Patrice Bergeron's promising NHL career was in the balance.
He played only 10 games that season, missing much of the season because of a concussion after a hit by Philadelphia's Randy Jones. The next season he missed more time with another concussion, and his production slipped greatly from the two years before 2007-08.
For two years, the Boston Bruins weren't sure if Bergeron would ever be the same player again. Now he will be remembered forever as the player who scored the Cup-winning goal in Game 7 of the 2011 Final.
Bergeron scored a pair of goals, and along with teammate Brad Marchand become one of only 11 players to score twice in a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
"It is an amazing feeling," Bergeron said after the Bruins' 4-0 win. "I had to work so hard to get back. This is about all the medical staff that made sure I took the time to get back. It is about all the whole team. What a feeling."
He got the party started for Boston, one-timing a pass from Marchand past Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo late in a first period that had been dominated by the Canucks. After Marchand pushed the lead to two, Bergeron gave Boston a 3-0 advantage late in the second period with a shorthanded goal.
Bergeron collected a bouncing puck in the neutral zone and split two Canucks en route to a breakaway. He was hauled down and a penalty was going to be called, but he forced the puck past Luongo anyway.
"We'll take that bounce," Bergeron said. "It is a lucky bounce, but I worked hard to get there, to get the net. It is a team effort. This isn't about any individual."
The two goals were quite an ending to a wonderful postseason for Bergeron. After the Bruins lost Marc Savard for the season, there were questions about Boston's ability to contend without an elite playmaking center.
Bergeron was a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate at one point before another concussion sidelined him for two games in the conference finals. He still finished the playoffs with 6 goals and 20 points in 23 games. He and fellow center David Krejci more than made up for the loss of Savard, as they finished as Boston's top two scorers in the postseason.
"It is amazing. It is an unbelievable feeling," Bergeron said. "This is for us as a team but also for the city of Boston. They've waited so long for that -- too long for that. To have a chance to be part of the team that is bringing it back means a lot to me."
This postseason might be the exclamation point on Bergeron's return to an elite level. It started when he won a gold medal for Canada in this same arena last February. He's considered one of the best two-way centers in the League and might be a Selke trophy candidate in the near future.
He's also now a Stanley Cup champion, and his two goals in Game 7 won't soon be forgotten.
"Sorry Canada, but I've got to go with the Stanley Cup," Bergeron said when asked to compare the feeling of winning the Cup and an Olympic gold medal, which he did with Canada in February 2010. "The gold medal is up high for sure, but this is a childhood dream. When you're playing hockey, you're thinking about hoisting the Cup. Now I've had that chance. I was five years old and playing outside with my brother. We were always dreaming about winning that Cup. To have a chance to get it now is amazing, but that gold medal is something special too."
His teammates appreciate all that Bergeron went through to get back to where he is now.
"You have to know what he's had to go through and how he's come back -- he won an Olympic gold and now a Stanley Cup," forward Brad Marchand said. "It just shows what a great player he is and what a great person he is to have on our team. We wouldn't have won if he wasn't here with us."
I've been getting frustrated lately, and the only thing keeping me sane was the team winning and other people stepping up and scoring. Then you just kind of let it go and realize you can end the series with one shot, that frustration goes away for a brief moment, and that's what happened.
— Montreal forward Max Pacioretty after scoring the OT winner in Game 4 -- his first career playoff goal -- to eliminate the Lightning and send the Canadiens into the second round