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Big Zee Leads the Way

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MA - From his knees in the high slot, Zdeno Chara punched both arms into the air, threw his head back and let out a yell. The Garden crowd roared around him.

It was emotional.

The Captain had just blasted the eventual game-winner past Henrik Lundqvist midway through the third period. The Bruins would go on to win 3-2 over the New York Rangers in their Black Friday matinee at TD Garden.

You may not see it away from the ice, in a postgame media scrum, when the calm, collected Chara methodically speaks about the Black & Gold, always turning a personal question into a broader spectrum of the team's performance.

But Big Zee has emotion pulsing through his 6-foot-9, 255-pound frame. And it fills every inch of the 200-by-85 foot sheet of the ice surface once he sets a skate on it, and stretches up into the rafters.

There’s obviously no better leader, no better defenseman in my mind.Patrice Bergeron, on Zdeno Chara

"There’s obviously no better leader, no better defenseman in my mind," alternate captain Patrice Bergeron said from the Bruins' locker room following the win. It was a room that wasn't necessarily jovial from the victory; but intense and determined, just like their leader.

"Every game, he goes to war."

Chara's goal capped off a Gordie Howe Hat Trick night for him.

It had started early, with an assist on the B's first goal. After faking a shot, the defenseman fed a cross-ice seam pass to Brad Marchand at the bottom of the right circle for the one-timer. It put them up 1-0 in the first.

"Every day he comes in, he shows the guys the direction that we need to go in," said Marchand, who fired in his first goal in seven games. "He always comes up big at the big times, you saw with that assist on my goal, and again the game-winner and how he sticks up for his teammates."

"We’re very lucky to have him."

It took just 82 seconds after Marchand's tally for the Rangers to pull ahead, 2-1.

But, with no change in the score three quarters of the way into the second period, Chara's emotional spark went off.

Milan Lucic had driven the net, creating a scoring chance. Lundqvist thought he had it covered. David Krejci poked towards the loose puck, knocking a Ranger into Lundqvist. Brian Boyle and the Rangers converged on the alternate captain.

Big Zee's emotions came to a boiling point.

He grabbed Boyle's jersey to keep him from going after Krejci. I'm not sure the 6-foot-7, 244-pound Boyle had much choice, given the circumstance. Both were riled up. The pair dropped the gloves.

It wasn't a long bout, with only a few punches thrown. But Chara took him down to the ice, bringing on the loudest roar from the Garden faithful we've heard all season.

The Captain doesn't always fight. It would most always be an unfair advantage for the opponent.

Since he started donning the Spoked-B in 2006-07, Chara now has 16 total fights in Black & Gold. He's never eclipsed four fights in a season as a Bruin.

"Sometimes emotions run high and you probably don’t even recognize who you’re up against," said Bruins' netminder Tuukka Rask. "He doesn’t fight that often but he does that when the time is right."

"That’s part of the game, I guess," said Chara. "Sometimes scrums involve a lot of heated moments, emotions. For sure, you have to protect your best players in that situation. Brian is really strong and tough customer and it was just something that we just kind of reacted on."

"We feed off of him and when you see that fire like he had, you want to step your game up and do the same," said Bergeron, who scored just 1:35 into the third to tie it up at 2-2. No. 33 was on the ice.

The Bruins would not trail again for the rest of the game.

"He’s our leader," said Dennis Seidenberg, who made his return to the lineup. "He’s a guy that brings emotion, if it’s lacking, into the game. That’s what he did. He had a great pass on the first goal, a great fight and the last goal, so he basically won the game for us."

"And that’s what you want out of a leader and that’s what he’s been doing."

The big night for Big Zee came when the Bruins needed it most, wanting to rebound from their 6-1 rout by the Red Wings in Detroit.

"The thing I like is the character that a guy shows. It’s about finding ways to win and bouncing back and that last game didn’t sit well with us," said Head Coach Claude Julien, of his team's collective effort. "And instead of getting upset, we were going to get determined."

With a 2-2 tie game in the third period, and the Bruins generating chances, it was a determined shot from Chara that made the difference, after a perfect read from Krejci.

The league's hardest shot doesn't get an open lane from the high slot often, especially against the Rangers, and in the current NHL with bodies all clouding the front of the net.

But when he does, he makes it count.

Zee doesn't pick a corner, or an area. Goalies like Lundqvist may think they had a bad read on the shot, or that it fools them. Really, he just winds up, aims at the net, and shoots it hard.

"I don’t know if people forget, but he makes everything look so easy," said Seidenberg. "He is just so dominant."

The Gordie Howe Hat Trick marked the fifth of Chara's career, and his third as a Bruin. It was his first since December 17, 2011 in Philadelphia.

But he doesn't ever keep track of that. For him, it just happens.

"As far as sticking to the game plan and playing hard, we had a lot of energy and a lot of emotion," said Chara. "I thought, for the most part we were playing the way we want to continue to play. It was a good job by everybody."

"I think our whole team played with more emotion," added Julien. "It’s the personality of our team; you get beat the way you did last game, you want to come back and certainly buy yourselves back."

There's plenty of passion from the man who wears the 'C' night in, and night out, but in this game, it just happened to show itself all over the ice.

"He’s been doing that for a long time. He’s the guy that puts the emotion back in the game when it’s lacking and that’s what he did," said Seidenberg.

"That’s all we can ask for from a leader, and we're glad to have him."

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