WILMINGTON — On Monday, a day after losing Zdeno Chara for 17 precious minutes, coach Claude Julien reiterated that his captain had done the right thing.
Chara had chased down Alexei Emelin after the Montreal defenseman cross-checked Tyler Seguin in the ribs. As Seguin scurried to the dressing room, Chara delivered a string of uppercuts to Emelin’s face.
Seguin didn’t miss a shift. The Canadiens scored the tying and winning goals with Chara in the box. But the long-term effect in the dressing room, said Julien, bests any short-term setbacks of the 17-minute banishment for Chara.
“What Zdeno Chara did yesterday, I support 100 percent,” said Julien. “Besides that 17 minutes of penalties he got, what he did is going to go a long way for our hockey club. Especially for Tyler Seguin. Tyler’s a good player. He needs to know everybody’s got his back. Zdeno showed that yesterday. That will allow Tyler to become a better player. When you know people have your back, you can play at ease. That thing that Zdeno did is certainly going to help Tyler be comfortable.”
To underscore his point, Julien noted that Chara was on the ice for both of Montreal’s first two goals. In the first period, during a Montreal power play, Chara launched a heavy hit on Brian Gionta along the boards. In hindsight, Chara would have been better positioned in front of the net. Tomas Plekanec tapped a net-front strike past goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Later in the first, David Desharnais beat Chara to a loose puck at the side of the net. Desharnais’s pass to Max Pacioretty deflected in off Johnny Boychuk.
“We are a good enough team that we can certainly win a hockey game with Zdeno in the box for 17 minutes,” Julien said. “It was more about our puck management in our own end. It wasn’t just one guy. It was from many guys.”
Among Julien’s pet peeves is when players sell calls. Julien accused the Canadiens of embellishment after Sunday’s loss. He didn’t back down from that Monday.
“I have a strong opinion on certain things, and I stick by it,” Julien said. “We’re a professional league here. Basketball’s been through it. They’ve kind of cleaned that up. I’m hoping we’re going to do the same thing with hockey.”
Julien emphasized he wasn’t criticizing referees Dean Morton and Steve Kozari. According to Julien, players place referees in challenging scenarios when they embellish.
Looking to regroup
While Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand generated regular scoring chances, the power line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton didn’t have as much of an offensive presence.
Krejci’s line didn’t possess the puck as regularly as Bergeron’s line. When they had the puck, the forwards didn’t push their usual brand of straight-line attack. They stalled at the offensive blue line and couldn’t initiate their down-low cycling.
“They were forcing a lot of plays in tight,” Julien said. “They were getting inside the blue line and trying those little small plays that had been successful for them. But Montreal defends well. They come back and take care of the middle very well. I think putting pucks at the net, just like Bergy’s line did — they went to the net, they put pucks there — probably would have been able to help them a lot more. They weren’t able to do that.”
Chris Bourque was a healthy scratch against the Canadiens. The day before, Bourque played a season-low 7 minutes and 17 seconds against Tampa Bay.
It’s possible Bourque could sit against Washington on Tuesday. The Capitals drafted Bourque in the second round in 2004. Daniel Paille has played in Bourque’s spot at left wing on the third line in the last two games. The Bruins don’t consider Bourque a fourth-line player.
“It’s the NHL,” Bourque said. “It’s tough to stay in the lineup. If you’re not playing great one night, you could be out of the lineup the next night. You’ve just got to stay positive and come to the rink with a good attitude. There’s a lot more games left.”
Washington is the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference. However, the Capitals have won three of their last four games. They are coming off a 3-0 victory over Winnipeg, with Bruins nemesis Braden Holtby earning the shutout. “I don’t think we’re facing a team that’s underachieving right now,” Julien said. “They might have underachieved a little bit at the beginning. But they’re finding their game right now.” . . . Krejci, Horton, Marchand, Bergeron, Seguin, Rask, Dennis Seidenberg, and Andrew Ference didn’t practice Monday. Julien said all his players are healthy and ready to play against Washington . . . Bergeron was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week. He had two goals and five assists in four games.