BOSTON - A surge down the slot. A filthy dangle. And a snipe top corner.
All of those things are usually reserved for the likes of David Pastrnak or Brad Marchand. But on Sunday night, it was an unlikely Bruin that did the honors.
Zdeno Chara's highlight-reel shorthanded goal was the prettiest of his accomplishments. But it was his overall effort, during a game-high 26 minutes, 36 seconds of ice time, that stole the show in Boston's 4-0 victory over the rival Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden.
The Captain's stellar performance paced the Bruins to their third straight victory and sends Boston into its bye week feeling more confident about its game than it did just a week ago.
"We took one game at a time. Big games, every one of them. We knew that we needed to be better. I think we were doing the right things in every game and trying to build on those," said Chara, who played over seven minutes more than any other Bruin and was a plus-2, while delivering three hits.
"There were still mistakes, but we recovered and found a way to score goals, found a way to defend, when we needed big saves, we got big saves. These are big points for us going into the bye week.
"We can only control how we play and I think we did that. So, now, it's time to take some rest and be ready when we get back."
Video: MTL@BOS: Chara buries top-shelf SHG from the slot
The time off is well-deserved for the Bruins, who have played 58 games, which is tied for the most in the NHL to this point. While Boston would no doubt like to continue its momentum, they will gladly take the rest and gear up for the stretch run. With the victory, they sit just six points behind Montreal for the top spot in the Atlantic Division and are three points clear of a playoff spot.
"Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it's pretty tight," said Chara, whose squad broke a 0-7-2 funk against Montreal at TD Garden. "We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we've got to climb up and fight for every point. It's going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.
"We can look at the standings as much as we want. But, I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible."
Chara's shorty was a thing of beauty. The blueliner cruised down the middle of the ice and took a feed from Ryan Spooner near the tops of the circles, before dangling around Alexander Radulov in the slot.
The 39-year-old (2-3-5 over his last five games) then picked top right corner on Montreal netminder Carey Price, giving Boston a 2-0 lead 5:08 into the second.
"Well, I was coming in and Ryan saw me, gave me the puck, and I had enough speed to kind of make a move," said Chara, who has five goals and 11 assists in 51 games this season. "It was just the opportunity kind of presented it, we were able to get a goal in a shorthanded situation.
"Those are always big, you kind of don't expect to probably score. But, when you do it's a huge boost."
It was the fourth goal for a Bruins defensemen over the last two games, a clear indication of interim head coach Bruce Cassidy's desire to activate the back end more in the offensive zone. Adam McQuaid, playing in his 400th NHL game, had the other tally from the blue line on Sunday (five of his 12 career goals have come against Montreal).
"We're getting encouraged from the coaching staff, guys who are known for being more defensive to be supporting the attack, and also for guys that are more known for the offensive part of their game, also taking big parts in playing defense," said Chara.
Chara's defensive effort on the penalty kill, though, was the most impressive part of his night. He played a remarkable 7:37 shorthanded, including an entire 5-on-3 situation toward the end of the first period with the Bruins ahead, 1-0. Overall, the Bruins killed all six of Montreal's power plays.
"They have a good power play. The players they have, they're all dangerous players," said Chara. "They have a number of different plays, guys who can shoot the puck. We were just really focusing on trying to take away as much as we could from them and, obviously, their No. 1 and No. 2 plays that we know that they like to do."
It was clear Chara grasped the situation his team faced Sunday night. The chance for a three-game winning streak heading into the bye week, a victory over the hated Canadiens, and another solid win at home were too important to let slip away.
"He was dialed in, he wanted to be out there in all key situations," said Cassidy, who improved to 3-0-0 since taking over behind the bench. "[Assistant coach Joe Sacco] is down there at that end of the bench now and he came and said between periods, 'Listen, he just wanted to stay out there and eat up minutes.'
"He was ready to go. Listen, when your leaders are leading, playing like that, the other guys get pulled along. It's great to see."
Video: Rask, Bruins blank Canadiens, 4-0