BOSTON - Brad Marchand has been playing with Patrice Bergeron for some seven seasons, a lifetime for hockey linemates. There is not much they don't know about each other. They are always on the same wavelength.
That's why Marchand recognized exactly what he should do when he rounded the net with the puck late in the third period Thursday night. As he cleared the post, he whipped a pass to Bergeron who was posted up in the high slot.
Bergeron let rip a one-timer that soared past Devils netminder Cory Schneider for the game-winner with 1:15 remaining in the Bruins' 2-1 home-opening victory at TD Garden.
"Every time I come around the net, I know he's going to be hovering around that area," said Marchand, who knotted the score with his third goal of the season with just over 10 minutes to go in the third.
"It's good to get back playing together and get closer to having our full lineup."
Bergeron knew with Marchand charging towards the front of the net that he needed to get to the slot and await Marchand's pass.
"I thought there was a little miscommunication in the D-zone and I knew that Brad was going to come around the net and see me there, so I was just waiting and I was ready for the one-timer," said Bergeron. "Obviously I was just trying to put it on net. I wasn't necessarily trying to look at an area. I was just trying to put it on net and I was lucky to get that goal."
Video: Bergeron scores GWG in season debut
What made Bergeron's winner that much more impressive was that he was playing in his first game of the season after missing the first three contests with a lower-body injury.
It took a few shifts for Bergeron to feel like himself, but by the end of the game he was back in form.
"I mean I was just trying to get my feet wet right away and use the first few shifts to kind of just feel good about my positioning and my skating," said Bergeron, who played 16 minutes, 49 seconds and won 54 percent of his faceoffs in his return. "As the game went on I just felt better."
The arrival of Bergeron back to the lineup was a boon for the Bruins dressing room. The positive impact Bergeron has on his teammates is clear.
"Everybody battles for him, everybody loves him," said Bruins defenseman Joe Morrow, who like Bergeron was making his 2016-17 debut. "He's one of the assistant captains, he's such a crucial piece to this team. Every time you're on the ice, you want to make him proud.
"He's just one of the best all-around players in the league, if not the best. Just having him in the lineup benefits this team so much. There are not a lot of players that I can say that about. He brings such a different aspect from the team."
With Bergeron back in his familiar spot beside Marchand, it allowed Bruins coach Claude Julien to lengthen his lines with David Backes shifting to the right wing with David Krejci and Danton Heinen.
David Pastrnak, who helped set up Bergeron's tally by winning a puck battle in the corner, was on the right side with Bergeron and Marchand.
Video: NJD@BOS: Bergeron beats Schneider for a late lead
"We definitely need to be strong on the puck," said Pastrnak. "We tried to get it behind the net and be hard on the puck. If you control it behind the net, the slot is open and Marchy made a nice pass. It was a good goal.
"It was important for us to have Bergy back. It was a huge comeback for him so we are happy."
Bergeron was impressed by Pastrnak's performance over the first three games of the season, during which the 20-year-old tallied four goals. It was apparent to Bergeron that the winger has grown leaps and bounds from a year ago.
"He's been tremendous from Game 1," said Bergeron. "His compete level, but also the way he creates space for himself and for us, and he's using his speed as well. That's a perfect indication on that play that he used his body, but also he used his speed to kind of create some space for himself and keep the puck in their zone."
Despite not having much time to practice and gain chemistry with Pastrnak, Marchand was pleased with how well the trio came together to produce the winning tally.
"It was tough at the start," said Marchand, who has a league-leading nine points through four games. "We had a week in training camp and we really didn't play that well together. We were all trying to adjust to different things, but once we got into the game and really kind of bore down it started to come along very nicely.
"Pasta's a great player. It's not always easy to adapt, but he's got another step this year, he's playing phenomenal."
Ultimately, though, there is one player that makes things tick more than any other.
"I think it's pretty obvious with what he did tonight," Julien said of Bergeron. "After being off for over a week, to come back and have one practice with us, he scores the clutch goal for us.
"And that's what he's always been for us, a clutch player."