As the Bruins swept through western Canada, losing players by the day to injuries and illness, the man who has been one of the few constants this year and every year addressed his teammates. Zdeno Chara wouldn’t say much about the talk, just that it happened. The Bruins responded, taking three of four games on the trip, despite an ever-changing lineup.
And with the team returning to TD Garden Tuesday, a return that might have brought a lapse in concentration or a letdown, it was Chara himself who led his teammates again.
The defenseman scored twice on the power play, both coming after high-stick penalties to Lance Bouma, both goals coming with assists from David Krejci and Jarome Iginla, as the Bruins defeated the Flames, 2-0.
“It was a big road trip for us,” Chara said. “We faced a lot of adversity with different things, but I’ve been saying that it doesn’t matter who is in the lineup, you have to respect the system and play to our full potential and most of the trip we did.”
On addressing his teammates, he added, “It’s just one of those things that at the same time you don’t want to be putting too much pressure on the team when there is already enough with whatever we are facing. It’s my job to go by what I feel is right and I have to obviously take that charge.”
He took it on the ice Tuesday, powering the Bruins to their fifth win in six games.
“I think he’s such a consistent competitor,” said Iginla, who recorded the first two points of his career against the Flames, and now has six points in his last six games. “Every game he’s on. It definitely is contagious and we all see it and we all want to follow him. He’s focused every game. Every game, every shift, he’s ready and ready to go and plays as hard as he can. That’s something that we all, like I said, try to follow.”
Chara, of course, wasn’t alone, with Tuukka Rask bouncing back nicely after Saturday’s game against Vancouver, in which he allowed four goals and didn’t see the end of the third period.
“Just tried not to get pulled twice in row, I guess,” Rask quipped.
For Rask, the shutout was the 19th of his career, tying him with Hal Winkler for eighth on the Bruins all-time list.
“It wasn’t pretty all the time, it was kind of just pucks bouncing all over the place, but we got the goals and power plays, stepped up, and Z got those goals we needed and killed a couple of penalties there too,” Rask said. “It wasn’t pretty, but it was a good effort from everybody and we need that.”
But it didn’t start out that way. The Bruins looked a bit sluggish in the first period, not unusual after returning home from a long road trip. They played evenly with the Flames in that period, outshooting them, 10-9.
In the second period, that changed.
Led by the third and fourth lines, which picked up their play, the Bruins started the second outshooting Calgary, 14-2.
“I think for us to win hockey games we’re going to need that,” coach Claude Julien said of the production all over the lineup. “You can’t always just rely on the so-called ‘big names.’ If you’re called up and you think you belong here, then show it.”
Then, in the second, the referees missed a call. Chara took an obvious high stick to the eye, sending him to the bench. No penalty.
Not long after, there was another high stick the referees couldn’t miss, this one sending Kevan Miller to his knees and drawing blood. That earned Bouma a four-minute double minor, and earned the Bruins their first goal of the night.
Chara knocked a one-timer from the right circle past Calgary goalie Reto Berra from Krejci and Iginla at 7:38 of the period. For Chara, it was his eighth goal of the season, his fifth on the power play.
He got his second goal at 3:19 of the third period, after Berra made the save on a one-timer from Iginla. That gave Chara nine goals, tying him with Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for the league lead among defensemen, with Torey Krug one behind them.
And those two were enough against a Calgary team that hasn’t scored at TD Garden since Oct. 19, 2006, having been outscored, 16-0, since then (5-0 March 27, 2010, 9-0 Jan. 5, 2012). It also extended the Bruins’ home streak to 11-0-2, with their last loss in Boston coming to the Devils Oct. 26.
Another win at home, yet another win with an undermanned lineup.
“Our team hasn’t changed,” Julien said, in response to a question about Chara’s leadership. “You go in that dressing room, it’s still the same — just a few new faces — but our demeanor, I guess our approach, nothing has changed.
“I think if you’ve watched us play lately, I don’t think we’ve changed our game. I haven’t told our guys we have to play better defensively — we have to really do that because we’re lacking some experience — all we do is go out there and play our game the way we feel we can play, no matter who’s in our lineup.”