Big time players come up big in big time games. Bruins fans have known to love what Zdeno Chara brings on a nightly basis and Saturday afternoon was no different.
As Pavel Datsyuk quieted a sold out TD Garden tying the score at 1-1, Chara received a beautiful feed from Patrice Bergeron and with less than four seconds left, the 6-foot-9 defenseman blasted a slapper past Red Wings’ goaltender Jonas Gustavsson sending Boston into a frenzy.
Chara led the Bruins in ice time once again logging 22:43 in an important Game 5. While scoring a crucial goal for his team, he added two hits and played 6:35 on the penalty kill where the B’s were nearly perfect in the series. One of the main reasons is because of their captain.
“Big Zee” now has two goals in the playoffs, but there was none bigger than his goal to end the second period Saturday afternoon.
“Well, we had only a few seconds left and (it was) kind of a 50-50 puck down low,” Chara said about his late second period tally. “We won the battle for the puck and Bergy just showed how quickly he can see the opening and made a really great pass to me. I mean- I was emotional. It was a big game and a big goal. So, I’m not afraid to show it.”
This Bruins team showed resiliency all series long whether it was coming back from 0-2 down in Game 4 or winning Game 2 after a tough Game 1 defeat in their own building. In Game 5, it was much of the same. Chara stepped up in a big spot giving his team momentum heading into the final frame, which eventually resulted in another goal as Milan Lucic gave the B’s a two-goal lead out of the gate in the third.
Bergeron knew the power-play goal by Chara to end the second was a game-changer after seeing their lead disappear.
As well as scoring a crucial goal, Chara also leads by example and it shows. Players like Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug have followed in his footsteps all season long and their progression is evident.
“There are a lot of guys you can watch in this dressing room,” Hamilton said. “I think we have all done that all year. Obviously, just watching Zee (Chara) and Johnny (Boychuk) and those guys on defense and some of the forwards as well. Everyone prepares so hard for these games and are focused. We are kind of able to watch that and learn from it.”
Goaltender Tuukka Rask loved the goal to end the second because it gave him a lead again and brought life back to the bench.
“Yeah, the second one was huge,” Rask said. “They tied the game up and then we were kind of down but then get the momentum right back and three seconds left in the period, so it was huge and then we got that insurance from Looch (Milan Lucic), so great effort.”
Chara matches up against the best players on a nightly basis while usually logging the highest number of minutes. This guy is irreplaceable. “Big Zee” will have his hands full in Round 2 while he will try to slow down the speedy Montreal Canadiens.