In a game full of stories, there wasn't a bigger one on Saturday -- literally and figuratively -- than Zdeno Chara
's return to the Boston Bruins lineup from a lower-body injury.
"He was good," said Head Coach Claude Julien after the B's 6-0 victory in Philadelphia versus the Flyers. "Again, he’s solid and as much as we missed him, it was a good rest for him -- playing the kind of minutes he does -- he seemed fresh tonight, he seemed excited to play and ready."
Chara was ready for everything and everything was what he got - right from the beginning of the game.
After Benoit Pouliot
scored just 27 seconds into the contest, Chara was challenged by Philadelphia's Jody Shelley and the gloves were dropped at the 2:50 mark of the first.
"It’s just a part of the game," said Chara. "I’m sure that they tried to get their team going and obviously we are that kind of team that we are not going to back off.
"In my case, it was just a normal hockey play," added the B's captain. "I responded and those things kind of happen."
What also happened was that Chara set the tone and the B's were in clear control for the remainder of the contest.
"What he did at the beginning -- it may not be the best tradeoff -- but sometimes you’ve got to look at what else it does," said Julien, who won his 200th game behind the B's bench. "He got challenged by their guy who was trying to set the tone for his team and it worked the other way - it kind of gave us a reason to be even more prepared to play and [be] more motivated."
Meanwhile, nobody was more motivated than Chara, who completed his "Gordie Howe" hat trick with a goal and an assist.
"Well first on the goal, I was just trying to put a shot through and I saw Nathan [Horton] and [Milan Lucic
] kind of lined up behind each other and I tried to literally shoot for the tip and I think the goalie didn’t see it and it went five-hole," said Chara, who added three hits during the game. "The second one was basically the same thing, just shooting for the pad and for the rebound play, because we had numbers down low and Horty was in really good position, so that’s what we try to sometimes do.
"You don’t necessarily have to shoot to score, but just create some good, rebound opportunities."
And thanks to additional goals from Daniel Paille
, Lucic, Horton and Tyler Seguin
, the B's seized on an opportunity to put the hammer down on a very good Philadelphia squad and tied the Flyers at the top of the Eastern Conference with 43 points.
"For the most part I thought we played a strong sixty minutes," said Chara. "There were some areas where we could have done maybe a little bit better job, but that’s just the game.
"But again, with so many penalties involved on both sides, it’s going to probably take a little bit of the flow out of the game.
" I thought we handled it really well," explained Chara, who played a game-high 23:39. "We had a really good first twenty and we carried on for the rest of the game.
"I thought it was a strong effort for sixty minutes."