But after recording seven points in his first 16 games this season, Bergenheim’s production slipped. Over the next 26 games, Bergenheim recorded only four points. He also suffered a strained side and was stricken with a virus, causing him to miss a total of 26 games. Even more frustrating for Bergenheim was that he saw time on the fourth line, limiting him to just 10 minutes in a few games this season.
Since his return to the lineup, however, Bergenheim has been one of the leading catalysts behind the Islanders’ improved play. Over the past 11 games, Bergenheim has recorded seven goals and three assists, including his hat trick against the Atlantic Division-leading New Jersey Devils on Saturday. The Islanders came away with their second win in two weeks against the usually stingy Devils. The Islanders combined for 11 goals in the two games, four of which were scored by Bergenheim.
"I think I’m working as hard as I was before, but it’s starting to go in and it feels great," said Bergenheim, who turned 25 last month. "When you play more, you learn more and you get more experience. I’m positioning myself on the ice better than the first half of the season. A lot of individuals are playing better right now and that’s because we’re playing better as a team."
Bergenheim has been putting the puck in the net in different ways during his current stretch. On Saturday, Bergenheim scored his first by crashing to the net and putting home a pass from Mike Iggulden. His second came as he skated from the side boards and threw a wrist shot from the slot through the legs of Brodeur. And his final goal was all hustle. Jack Hillen chipped the puck into the offensive zone and Bergenheim raced after it with an empty-net in front of him. Bergenheim grabbed the puck and sharply pulled up to allow Brendan Shanahan to pass him. With nearly no time left on the clock, Bergenheim ripped a hard shot from a sharp angle to complete his first NHL hat trick.
"That’s the second time in the last few years I’ve scored in the last second," said Bergenheim, who scored the empty-netter with .7 seconds remaining. "I made it a little bit tight there, but I’m happy that it was one second before and not one second too late."
His productive play of late has earned him increased ice time, as he his averaging around 15 minutes over the past five games. With 17 games remaining, Bergenheim has already eclipsed his career-high in goals (14) and is only five assists away and one point away from matching his career-highs in those categories.
"His play away from the puck and his effort with the puck is improving," said Head Coach Scott Gordon. "He’s not just grabbing the puck and going with it. He’s protecting the puck better. A perfect example is the empty-net goal, which was all set up by his stopping and pulling it through Shanahan’s legs. What was impressive about that was what he did to set it up. He’s doing that now more than he’s done that anytime this year."