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For Bergeron, Nashville All-Star Experience Strikes a Chord

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

NASHVILLE — When Patrice Bergeron’s Atlantic Division team was facing off against the Metropolitan Division in the NHL All-Star Game’s semifinal on Sunday night at Bridgestone Arena, his opponents had one request.

“A few guys on the other team, they were telling me I wasn’t allowed to backcheck,” Bergeron laughed. “That it was an unwritten rule in the All-Star Game.”

“But I didn’t know about that,” he smirked.

Team Atlantic earned a 4-3 win in the semifinal to advance to the final against Team Pacific, who had topped Team Central to earn the West’s bid.

The low-scoring game saw Bergeron’s squad fall 1-0 to Team Pacific in the 20-minute game. The lone goal — from Corey Perry — was scored with just 6:22 left.

Emphasis on defense is obviously not new to the Bruin.

“Especially with knowing that if you lose that first game, you’re out — I wanted to play in the Final — so yeah, definitely [a focus on defense],” said Bergeron.

The new 3-on-3 format could have caused a high-scoring final, but their will to win took precedence this time around, especially after No. 37 saw the West’s back-and-forth semifinal end in a 9-6 decision.

“Guys were definitely trying and that’s why it was so low-scoring like that,” said Bergeron. “The guys, they don’t want to give up anything, and we were watching the second game and a lot of breakaways and 2-on-1’s and stuff like that, and it seemed like that last one was more of a compact kind of tight coverage game.”

This fact may sound like a broken record, but it’s just the way it is, and always will be: Bergeron is a two-way player, who plays a solid, two-way game.

That won’t change, for an NHL All-Star Game, or anything else.

He even broke up a sure goal on the doorstep, by getting on his horse, racing back and denying a cross-crease pass.

He wasn’t the only one trying. Skaters on both sides put in the effort, and the goaltenders pulled out the flashy stops.

“Guys were trying so here and there, you were kind of using your body a little bit more than last year, so it was good,” said Bergeron.

The center registered two shots on goal and three takeaways in the first game, logging the most ice time at 8:37. In the final, he posted three shots, a takeaway and went 100 percent on the faceoff dot, winning a key offensive zone faceoff in an extra attacker situation with less than two minutes left in the game.

“It was good, I had fun playing it,” he said. “I thought, even though it was low scoring, it was entertaining. I thought guys were working hard and making some good things happen.”

The most memorable parts of the weekend often happen off the ice, though.

Bergeron was able to spend time relaxing with his wife and his son Zack, going on walks around downtown Nashville and bringing him into the locker room — even if he doesn’t yet know his dad’s All-Star status.

Patrice checking out his locker room for the weekend with his son Zack. #NHLAllStar

A photo posted by Boston Bruins (@nhlbruins) on

“It was great,” he said of the experience. “Great music all weekend. People were very welcoming. The venues, everything was so close together, it made everything so easy and I thought the weather was amazing. So everything really turned out great.”

He also got to know more of the NHL’s stars, away from the regular season rivalries.

In the East’s locker room, Bergeron was situated alongside Atlantic Division teammates Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly and Montreal’s P.K. Subban.

“I got to know those guys a little bit more, and even Ben Bishop was one of those guys that I had never met before and he’s a really nice guy, down to earth, and it was nice to have a chance to chat with them,” said Bergeron.

Now that the 2016 NHL All-Star Weekend is a wrap, Bergeron and his counterparts from the other 29 teams will head back to their respective squads — and become rivals once again.

The second half of the 2015-16 season still awaits, with points on the line and playoff positions still to earn.

“Yeah, I guess [relax] tonight, and then jump back on a plane in the morning and back at it on Tuesday,” he said. “So I’ll relax tonight and be ready for Tuesday.”

The Bruins will jump right back into action on Tuesday night, hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Bergeron will likely get a maintenance day on Monday, since he won’t be back in Boston yet by the time his Black & Gold teammates hit the ice for a 2:00 p.m. practice at TD Garden.

While he was taking part in the All-Star festivities, they were resting and recovering.

“For sure,” affirmed the All-Star. “I’m expecting everyone to be refreshed and feeling good.”

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