BOSTON - It's the little things that have separated Patrice Bergeron throughout his 14-year career. It's the little things that have made him into a four-time Selke Trophy winner. It's the little things that helped make him into one of the league's most dependable and consistent players.
It's the little things that Bergeron does throughout the course of a game that the Bruins have missed so much through the first five games of this season.
And it's the little things that Bergeron did during his four-point return to the lineup that helped pace Boston to a much-needed 6-3 take down of the Vancouver Canucks at TD Garden on Thursday night.
"I think it's just morale as much as anything, on the bench and in the room," said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. "Those intangibles, leadership - first shift of the game, he's standing up. They had scored a goal and [he's] kind of settling the troops down, talking about the details of the game, finishing your routes on the forecheck, reloading all the way to our zone.
"Stuff that coaches preach a lot, but goes in one ear and out the other sometimes. And when you hear it from the leaders of the group, it means so much more."
Video: Bjork, Bergeron lead Bruins past Canucks for 6-3 win
There was, perhaps, no better example of Bergeron's influence on his team than the play he made to set up Brad Marchand on Boston's fifth goal of the night. It wasn't flashy or pretty or anything that will stand out in a highlight reel.
But it was critically important.
With the Bruins holding a 4-1 lead midway through the second period, Bergeron charged into the corner and set his sights on Vancouver defenseman Ben Hutton. Bergeron sneaked in from behind, lifted Hutton's stick, boxed out the blue liner, and poked the puck to a nearby Anders Bjork.
Bjork then whipped around and found a wide-open Marchand at the right face-off dot, where Marchand sniped a wrister over the left shoulder of Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom to extend the Bruins' lead to four goals.
It was Bergeron - and Marchand, for that matter - at his best.
"He does it everywhere," said Marchand, who added two assists. "The amount of turnovers he creates and opportunities he creates off of those loose pucks and won battles. And then Bjork, he did a great job at getting in there and making the good plays, so you know, it just shows, again, the little things he does that mean so much for our team."
"It's huge for our team," echoed Anders Bjork, who had two goals and an assist in his first career multi-point game. "He obviously brings a lot of skill and passion and he brings a lot of other things that you don't really realize - in the locker room and on the bench and stuff. So I mean, you can definitely see why he's one of the best players in the NHL, not just because of what he does on the ice, but in the locker room as well."
Video: VAN@BOS: Marchand snipes goal from the circle
But it was far from just the little things that Bergeron did right on Thursday night. The center, returning from a lower-body injury that sidelined him for the season's first two weeks, notched a goal (on the power play) and three assists, while firing a game-high six shots on goal in 20 minutes, 58 seconds of ice time.
"I mean it's pretty evident the way he played out there tonight," Marchand said of his longtime linemate's impact. "It's incredible the way he came back and dominated the game after being out for that long…he's just such a big part of the group. He's able to calm things down in the room, on the bench, and he leads by example. You know, he just does everything that a top guy does."
Bergeron also brought a spark back to the power play, where he mans the bumper position in the middle of the slot on Boston's top unit. After Frank Vatrano was slammed from behind into the end boards by Vancouver defenseman Erik Gudbranson at 6:13 of the first, drawing a five-minute major, Boston went to work.
"That's something we talked about," said Bergeron, who was playing in his 900th NHL game. "We want to be a tight group and take a team response to stuff like that, and that's something we talked about on the bench when they announced the penalty that we had to make him pay and that's the worst way to make him pay is by scoring goals, and that was a great power play for us."
Video: Bergeron Tallies 4 points against VAN
It certainly was. The Bruins scored three power-play goals during the penalty - the first time they've accomplished the feat since Oct. 28, 1998 against Montreal -to break a tie and open up a 4-1 lead. Bergeron assisted on David Krejci's tally, which was the third and final power-play goal, and was on the ice for David Pastrnak's end-to-end dangle that kicked off the barrage.
Bergeron then added a power-play goal of his own midway through the third when he slapped home Pastrnak's feed from the top of the crease to open up a 6-3 Bruins lead. His four-point night gave him 675 career points and pushed him into sole possession of seventh place on the Bruins' all-time scoring list, passing Ken Hodge (674).
"I was feeling good at practice, and you know, that's one of the reasons why I told them I thought I was ready to go, and [Wednesday's] practice I felt really good," said Bergeron. "You don't know what to expect, obviously. You're trying to hope for the best…I don't want to say I was surprised because you want to be at your best every time you step on the ice."
There are not many nights when Bergeron does not live up to those words. Little things and all.
Video: VAN@BOS: Bergeron scores PPG in 900th NHL game