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Chara a magician with clutch effort

by Shawn P. Roarke /
BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins knew they would need a little magic from team captain Zdeno Chara if they were going to keep their season alive with a win Sunday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Little did they know Chara would need a little magic of his own to just to finish the dominating 4-0 win against Carolina at the TD Banknorth Garden that sends the series back to Raleigh, N.C., for Game 6 on Tuesday night.

In the final minute of the second period, Chara found himself tied up with Niclas Wallin near the Carolina goal-mouth. As he got untangled, it appeared he was slashed by Jussi Jokinen, Carolina's own magic-maker in this series.

Chara did not get up after the slash, falling to the ice and clutching his knee until the officials stopped play. He was helped off the ice by a teammate and hobbled down the runway to the dress room as the Boston faithful held its collective breath.

Yet, he returned in the third period, playing 7 minutes and 43 seconds of flawless hockey to finish the night with a total ice time of 24:34. Asked how he could return so seamlessly after limping off the ice, Chara was playoff cryptic, saying it was "magic" by the trainers.

But his teammates would argue that it was Chara who performed magic throughout the game. Every time Boston was doing something good on the ice -- no matter the zone -- Chara was in the middle of it.

He finished with two assists, a plus-3 rating, five shots, five hits and a blocked shot. Just as importantly, he completed his most-important mission -- limit the effectiveness of Eric Staal. The Carolina center had no points, just three shots and was a minus-2 after dominating the past three games.

"I think he was at his best tonight," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "People felt he didn't play as well as he can in the past few games and they were right. But this is Zdeno Chara, who came up with a big game when really needed him to play big.

"These are the kind of efforts you need from your players. Zdeno's a leader and he needs to lead by example and I thought he did a great job of that tonight."

Boston Bruins Playoff GearThe Bruins' players expected nothing less from their captain.

"He's our captain, he's our leader," said Milan Lucic, who had a goal and an assist in the game. "He's the hardest working guy on our team and that is why he is our captain. He led us this far through the season and we expect that out of him."

What they expect, in essence, is a game-changer; a player that can alter the outcome just by the sheer force of his will. They got that Sunday night.

"He was huge tonight," said Bruins center Marc Savard, who had pretty passes to set up a pair of Phil Kessel goals. "He was a monster. He's our leader for a reason."

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