BOSTON — Patrice Bergeron explained to his teammates they should be thankful anytime they’re able to play.
And they should be even more grateful he’s back with them.
Bergeron scored two goals to reach 300 for his career, returning to the lineup Saturday after missing 16 games and leading the Boston Bruins past the Nashville Predators 5-2.
"When you’re in it for a while, it’s game whatever," he said. "You don’t appreciate it as much. I told them to be thankful because I’ve been missing it for so long."
He also set up Brad Marchand’s tie-breaking score and finished with two assists to help send Boston to its sixth win in eight games.
"This shows why," said Marchand, who called Bergeron one of the game’s best players. "It’s tough to jump in after five weeks and feel good. He’s an incredible leader and player and showed that again."
David Pastrnak had his team-leading 23rd goal and added two assists. Marchand had two assists and defenceman Charlie McAvoy set up Bergeron’s first goal
Making his third straight start for the Bruins, Jaroslav Halak stopped 28 shots and assisted on Sean Kuraly’s empty-netter.
Ryan Johansen and Kyle Turris scored for Nashville, which lost its fourth straight (0-3-1) for the first time this season. Pekka Rinne made 27 saves.
"We came in to get a win and go into the break on a good note, and obviously that didn’t happen." Johansen said. "We’ll take this break for some much-needed rest and get back to what makes us successful."
The Predators completed a winless four-game road trip.
"I think right now, where we’re at, especially on the road, it’s about those one or two or three extra things in the course of a game that we could clean up," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.
With Ryan Hartman off for tripping, Bergeron sent a pass to Marchand, who one-timed a shot into the net with 8:37 left in the game. Pastrnak completed a 2-on-1 break with Marchand for a goal with 5:51 to go.
The Bruins had a two-man, power-play advantage for 65 seconds to start the third period. At the end of the first penalty, Rinne made a pad save on Torey Krug and stuffed Marchand’s rebound bid.
But on the ensuing shift, Bergeron scored out of a scramble from just outside the crease, lifting puck over the goalie to make it 2-1 at 1:44 of the period.
"He just gives an emotional boost around practice yesterday knowing he’s going to come back in the lineup," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said.
Turris fired a shot from the top of right circle that caromed into the net off the left post, making it 2-2 with 10:53 left in the third.
Sidelined because of a rib injury since mid-November, Bergeron had pushed the Bruins ahead 15:10 of the opening period. McAvoy fired a pass to Bergeron in the slot, where the centre cut toward his left, stopped and shifted quickly before flipping a shot under the bar.
Boston had a goal overturned midway into the second period. A replay review for goaltender interference prevented the Bruins from going up 2-0.
In a second period filled with steady end-to-end play, Nashville tied it at 13:01 when Johansen fired a wrister from the right circle that appeared to hit Boston defenceman Matt Grzelcyk’s stick and change direction before slipping into the net through a small space between the post next and Halak’s left arm.
NOTES: Rinne had a shutout in the teams’ other meeting, 1-0 in Nashville on Nov. 3. . Boston defencemen Zdeno Chara (knee) and Kevan Miller (larynx) both resumed practicing this week but didn’t play. They’re getting close to returning, but Cassidy said they both wouldn’t play Sunday. . Halak entered the day leading the NHL with a .930 save percentage. … Cassidy also said goaltender Tuukka Rask would start Sunday. . The Predators came in 10-1-1 against Eastern Conference teams.
Predators: Off until Dec. 27th when they host Dallas.
Bruins: At Carolina on Sunday.