Zdeno Chara Delivers Vintage Performance on Night Celebrating His Latest Milestone As Bruins Topple Tampa

Zdeno Chara Delivers Vintage Performance on Night Celebrating His Latest Milestone As Bruins Topple TampaBOSTON — There was a time when Zdeno Chara may not have reacted so well to being the center of attention.

But over the course of 1,000-plus games in the NHL, the Bruins captain has learned to channel his emotions to better effect. The Tampa Bay Lightning found that out the hard way Tuesday night.

Chara was honored before the game for playing his 1,000th game Saturday in Los Angeles, and he showed no signs of slowing down in the second millennium of his career as he dished out three assists to lead the Bruins to a 5-2 win.

"Z's got a lot of pride," Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said. "But I think he's also done a good job over the last couple years of knowing how to use it. Three years ago he might have tried to do too much and it would have been more of a negative where he was extending himself too much. But you’ve seen his game evolve to the point now where the same opportunity when he wants to prove something, but he does it the right way. He doesn't get in bad positions. He doesn't try to do too much. He does all the good things he normally does, but just a little bit better."

Chara was better than just about everyone else on the ice Tuesday night — at least everyone not named Stamkos. Tampa star Steven Stamkos did his best to keep the injury-ravaged Lightning in it, adding two more goals to his league-leading total of 54 on the season.

But even that earned second billing to Chara on this night. Chara answered an early Stamkos strike when he weaved through the Lightning defense down the right wing and drove all the way to the net. Tampa goalie Dwayne Roloson made the initial stop on Chara's bid, but he couldn't block Shawn Thornton’s follow-up as Chara earned his first assist.

Brian Rolston, who has played just 16 games with Chara since coming back to Boston from the Islanders at the trade deadline last month, said nothing has surprised him about Chara's game after playing against him for so long. But when asked about the drive that led to that goal, even Rolston, a veteran of 1,251 NHL games himself, had to admit it was a bit of an eye-opener.

"Yeah, that surprises you," Rolston said. "He's got great hands, unbelievable hands. I've seen him come out of the zone a couple times defensively just making great stickhandling moves, so it does surprise for sure when he makes plays like that, but not overly surprised.

"You put that with the size and the toughness and everything," Rolston added. "He's the full package. It’s impressive."

Chara impressed again with his second assist, which came when he launched one of his patented blasts from the blue line with the sides playing 4-on-4 in the second period. Roloson got a pad on that one as well, but he was once again helpless on the follow-up as Dennis Seidenberg pinched down the left wing and fired home the rebound.

Chara capped his night with one final assist on Benoit Pouliot's eventual game-winner, snapping a 2-2 tie midway through the third period. Chara finished with a game-high six shots and a plus-3 rating to go with three assists in 24:26 of ice time.

"I mean, you can take away his three assists and still look at his game and say he was solid," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Everything he did was simple, efficient, and he was rock solid tonight. I really liked his game, and to cap it off with a three-point night was nice to see. He made a lot of smart plays. He was really, really good. Obviously, this was a special night for him, and he wanted to make sure that everything he did was good and positive, and [he] was a real solid contributor for us tonight."

The three assists matched a single-game career high for Chara. He's got 3-3-6 totals over his last five games, and the fact that he's showing no signs of slowing down at this stage of his career is nothing new to his teammates.

"It's not surprising, because he takes such good care of himself," Ference said. "He's just constantly working to improve, always. I don't think I've ever seen him settle. He's very critical of himself, and he's learned to channel that into being better and better and never being satisfied. It's not surprising that he's gotten all this success and he just keeps continuing to get better. I expect that to just kind of keep going with the attitude that he has."

That attitude includes a firm belief that the two points Boston added in the standings with its third straight win are far more important than the three points he added to his personal total with those assists.

"I think that's the most important thing, that's more important than my three assists," Chara said of the victory, Boston's first three-game win streak since December. "We just want to play really well going into the playoffs, and at least out there you have to get your game established and play the right way, and for the most part, I thought we did. But still, there’s areas that can be better and we can improve and just have to be ready for the next one. It was a tough game to play. They're always dangerous, they always create good scoring chances and obviously they have some guys that are extremely well at finding the net. But the important thing is we won the game."

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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