BOSTON — Eight years have passed since Boston Bruins left winger Benoit Pouliot's father, Sylvain Pouliot, died of leukemia.
But not one day passes without Pouliot thinking of Sylvain, who passed away in February 2004.
"He took care of me and got me involved with hockey and sports and that's why I am here right now," Pouliot said. "It's because of him. Obviously, I think about him every day. Yeah, it's been a long time. But at the same time, he's my dad and so it's something you have in the back of your mind all the time."
Sylvain is a tremendous source of motivation for Pouliot, who scored the game-winning goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning last night here at the TD Garden. Pouliot netted his goal 11:34 into the third period, breaking a 2-2 tie. The Bruins went on to win 5-2.
Right now, Pouliot, who has five goals and seven assists in his last 10 games, is playing terrific alongside Chris Kelly and Brian Rolston on Boston's extremely hot third line.
The 6-foot-3, 199-pounder has 14 goals and 16 assists this year, tying his career-high 30-point regular season in 2010-11 with the Montreal Canadiens. And that's in 11 fewer games.
Pouliot's career hasn't lived up to expectations yet. Projected to be a prolific scorer, he has 102 points over parts of six NHL seasons.
Pouliot is determined to have a successful career for himself and for his dad, who Pouliot believes still is watching him.
"I just want to do something out there for him," Pouliot said.
The Minnesota Wild selected Pouliot fourth overall in the 2005 draft — the same draft Sidney Crosby was taken first overall by Pittsburgh.
Pouliot played in just 65 games over parts of 3 1/2 seasons with Minnesota, tallying just nine goals and nine assists. He spent most of his time in the minors before being dealt to Montreal on Nov. 23, 2009.
Pouliot played 118 games over the next season and a half with the Canadiens, scoring 28 goals and adding 26 assists. He then signed with the Bruins during free agency July 1, 2011.
He has gone through stretches where he has been very efficient offensively — such as the way he has played over the past 10 games.
But there have been stretches where he hasn't played well at all — such as his 17 straight games from Jan. 24 through March 3 when he recorded just one goal and no assists.
"It's tough," he said. "There's not always ups. There are downs and you have to deal with it. ... It's hard. You try so hard to do the right thing and sometimes it's not clicking at all."
Sylvain Pouliot was a hockey player himself. And he was extremely proud of Benoit who scored his first ever Ontario Hockey League goal while playing for the Sudbury Wolves in February 2004 — the day before his father died.
Benoit's father did not completely understand what people were telling him during his final days. But Benoit still called home to his mother, Diane, and told her to tell Sylvain he had scored his first OHL goal.
"That was nice," Benoit said. "That (playing for Sudbury) was what he wanted me to do."
Sudbury had just called up Benoit. He had been living at home while playing for the Hawkesbury Hawks of the Canadian Junior Hockey League.
"It was a call-up and I didn't know if I should go or stay home," he said, as he wanted to be near his dad at that time. "But from what I know he (Sylvain) wanted me to go and he just wanted me to play hockey."
Sylvain coached Benoit's baseball teams during the summers and helped turn him into a huge baseball fan.
"I played baseball until I had to stop because of hockey," said Benoit, a Blue Jays fan. "I loved it and I sure miss it. It was nice."
Life is good for Pouliot right now. He is about to enter the playoffs with the defending Stanley Cup champions and he just might be on the hottest line in hockey.
In the last six games, Pouliot, Kelly and Rolston have combined for nine goals and 16 assists.
The Bruins acquired the 39-year-old Rolston from the New York Islanders at the trade deadline Feb. 27. Rolston has 12 points in his last seven games.
"He (Rolston) has been in the league so long he knows what's going on out there and (he is providing) leadership and a lot more right now and it's helping us a lot," Pouliot said. "Our line is clicking."