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By 16:46 of Wednesday’s third period, when David Krejci tucked the final goal into an empty net, the Bruins could cruise to a 4-1 win over the Canadiens at TD Garden.

The score did not reflect the one-sided nature of the game. Earlier in the third, Krejci bonked a backhander off the post. David Backes and Noel Acciari also clanged shots off iron. As usual, Carey Price (28 saves) turned back pucks he had no business stopping. The Bruins should have won the game by many more goals than three.

But inexplicably, the popgun Canadiens didn’t just have a glittering chance of tying Wednesday’s game at 2-2 in the second period. They had a great opportunity to pull ahead.

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At 8:33 of the second, Charlie McAvoy was called for holding. Fifty-one seconds later, Brandon Carlo joined McAvoy in the penalty box after he was nabbed for slashing. The Canadiens had a five-on-three power play for 69 seconds.

It is not so much of an advantage, however, when the penalty kill features a defenseman who plays like two men.

Zdeno Chara is not just the Bruins’ best penalty killer. He is their only left-side option. Neither Torey Krug nor Matt Grzelcyk take regular shorthanded shifts. When Chara takes a penalty or needs an occasional shorthanded breather, the Bruins usually call upon Kevan Miller to switch to the left side.

Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, here celebrating David Pastrnak’s first-period goal, submitted the effort of two men in killing off a 5-on-3 penalty.
Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, here celebrating David Pastrnak’s first-period goal, submitted the effort of two men in killing off a 5-on-3 penalty.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

On Wednesday, the Bruins were in a bind. Miller was out sick. Carlo, who takes the first shorthanded shift next to Chara, was in the box. Adam McQuaid was playing for the first time since Oct. 19.

Chara lives for such situations.

The captain was on the ice for all of McAvoy’s penalty. Chara gobbled up 1:36 of Carlo’s infraction. By the time Chara finally retreated to the bench, he had been on the ice for a monstrous 4:18 shift. The Bruins made the stand with their 2-1 lead safe. Assistant coach Kevin Dean, who manages the defensive shifts, was not about to get in Chara’s way regarding such an extended shift.

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“Torey and Grizz are not regular killers for us. He knows that,” coach Bruce Cassidy said of Chara. “He thrives on it. He wants it. Sometimes we’ve got to grab him by the scruff of the . . . well, I can’t, but Kevin will try to, for him to come off in those situations. Not on a five-on-three, but he relishes that role. That’s where Carlo and McQuaid/Miller do a good job for us as well. That’s where we’re trying to find that fourth. Charlie may have to go to his off side. Where we can get in trouble, we’ve talked about the dimension of that lineup. When you dress Grizz, you lose a bit of that, especially if a D takes a penalty. So it’s invaluable to us.”

Chara had help. Once Carlo exited with his penalty, McQuaid helped clean out the two-man advantage. McQuaid, unlike Chara, acknowledges feeling human at times. So given his 36-game absence, McQuaid’s legs did not feel like iron at the end of the kill.

“I was a little tired. Yeah,” McQuaid said with a smile. “I tried my best not to overstay or overextend my shifts. I didn’t have much choice in that case. Yeah, I felt that one a little bit.”

There was little former Bruins head coach Claude Julien, now with the Canadiens, could do or say to fire up Montreal’s bench after giving up a second-period goal.
There was little former Bruins head coach Claude Julien, now with the Canadiens, could do or say to fire up Montreal’s bench after giving up a second-period goal.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Montreal had little push after the kill. Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Drouin, and Alex Galchenyuk, the Canadiens’ most dangerous offensive weapons, didn’t get any sniffs around Tuukka Rask (21 saves).

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“You can’t say enough about those plays in those turning points of the game,” Cassidy said of his team’s shorthanded work. “I thought we had been the better team. But they found a way to stay in the game on the road. That was their opportunity to take control of the game. We did a good job, a real good job. It doesn’t surprise me. Adam’s very good on the kill. We’ve said that all along. It’s one area we’ve missed when he’s out of the lineup.”

Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid returned to the ice for his first game since he broke his fibula on October 19th.
Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid returned to the ice for his first game since he broke his fibula on October 19th. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

The Bruins, energized by the kill, took over for the rest of the game. At 3:40 of the third, Brad Marchand gave the Bruins the breathing room they needed with a power-play goal. It was a broken play, but when Krug’s whiff landed on Patrice Bergeron’s stick, the Canadiens were in full scramble mode. By the time Bergeron pushed the puck to Marchand on the far post, neither Price nor Montreal’s penalty kill could rotate to stop the left wing’s shot.

“That insurance goal, those matter a lot,” Cassidy said. “It ends up 4-1 when you look at it. But at the time, it’s a big goal for us. We talked about trying to get in front of the net, getting some traffic, forcing them to push us out of the scoring area. We got rewarded. It wasn’t the prettiest play, but we had bodies there. We were able to outnumber them, recover the puck, and push it to the top of the crease.”

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Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.