BOSTON -- Zdeno Chara not only was in the lineup for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden on Thursday, but Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy made sure to have the captain in the starting lineup.
If you went just by the announcement of public address announcer Jim Martin, you wouldn't have known that the 6-foot-9 defenseman wearing the jaw protector attached to his helmet had a name.
Chara's mere presence on the ice, three days after he sustained a facial injury in Game 4, inspired as loud an ovation as there has ever been at TD Garden. You couldn't hear his name over the roar of the crowd, but 15 seconds into the game, there was no doubting he was in the thick of the action because he hit Blues forward Brayden Schenn just inside the Bruins blue line to inspire another ecstatic crowd response.
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"Yeah, it fired us up," Boston forward Jake DeBrusk said. "It gives you that emotional boost, especially at the start of the game, hearing the crowd. It was something we wish we heard a little more tonight. But you know, you just try to pull weight for the guy and do it for him."
The Bruins lost 2-1 to fall behind in the best-of-7 series. The Blues will have a chance to win the Cup for the first time in their history in Game 6 at home on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
It wasn't all that surprising Chara played. His nearly half-hour on the ice during an optional morning skate indicated what he was planning for the evening. He sat on the bench for the third period of Boston's 4-2 loss in Game 4, and he wasn't about to sit out again.
But Cassidy said the doctors would have the last word on Chara's status, so Chara was a game-time decision.
Video: STL@BOS, Gm5: Fans give Chara rousing ovation
When the Bruins entered the ice for warmups, Chara followed goalie Tuukka Rask onto the ice as usual, and the crowd went bonkers. After the raucous announcement of the starting lineups, the main lights came back on and a brief Chara highlight video on the scoreboard screen really got the crowd pumped up.
At 3:12 of the first period, a "Cha-ra, Cha-ra" chant broke out. The Bruins used the extra energy to outshoot the Blues 17-8 in the first period. But they didn't score.
Chara finished minus-1 with two shots on goal, four hits and three blocked shots in 16:42 of ice time. Any concerns about his inability to communicate with his teammates didn't become a problem.
"He was fine. Maybe not yelling as much on the ice, but on the bench, he was fine," Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo said.
Video: What Chara's start means for the Bruins defense
Chara's return even impressed the Blues.
"I thought it was cool. Good for him," said St. Louis forward David Perron, who scored the game-winning goal at 10:36 of the third period. "He's battling obviously a serious injury, and I have a lot of respect for him, a lot of respect for a lot of those guys over there. Right now, we're trying to make it uncomfortable for him, for all their D-men, putting pucks behind, really being physical on them. And we're going to have to amp it up again next game."
The Bruins are hoping Chara gets one more chance to get an ovation at TD Garden. First, though, they have to win Game 6.