BOSTON — The Bruins lost their most important defenseman for almost an entire period on Sunday night against the Canadiens. And while his absence stemmed directly from a decision to retaliate against the opposition by fighting, the Bruins had no problems with their captain’s decision.
Even if it might have cost them the game.
Zdeno Chara came to the aid of Bruins winger Tyler Seguin late in the second period Sunday night. Seguin was felled in the neutral zone by Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin. A cross-check that broke Emelin’s stick found the ribs of Seguin in the middle of the ice, and while neither referee saw the cross-check, Chara sure did.
The big defenseman went right after Emelin and knocked him down to the right of the Bruins’ net. Before Emelin could even get up, Chara had shed his mitts and started pounding away on Emelin. The end result, aside from multiple right hands to the face of Emelin, was a small vacation for Chara. The Boston captain was given the five minutes for fighting, two minutes for instigating, and for good measure, he was given a 10-minute misconduct.
The 17 minutes of penalties for Chara may have come back to hurt Boston in the third. They saw their 3-2 lead evaporate as Montreal got third-period goals from Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais. All Chara could do was look on from the penalty box.
It’s impossible to say whether or not the Habs would have scored the two goals in the third period had Chara not been serving his time in the sin bin, but there’s no denying that he would have helped had he been on the ice.
Yet no one in the Bruins’ dressing room — or more importantly, the head coach — had a problem with Chara’s actions. It was quite the opposite actually.
“Zdeno did what he had to do,” Julien said. “When a guy cross-checks, you know, one of your good players in the ribs and breaks his stick, and the referees aren’t gonna call it, then we gotta do what we gotta do here. So that’s what he did. Again, I support that. That’s a teammate protecting a teammate. He was one of our good players tonight, too, Tyler, and we’re a team that reacts to those types of things. When people take liberties on our good players, we go to their defense.”
Of course, for Chara, it’s just doing his job as the captain of the club and as a good teammate — even if it hurts the Bruins in the short term as it did Sunday. With cuts on his knuckles, Chara sat in front of his stall after the game and explained the decision to seek retribution.
“I was just reacting to it but he?s one of our best players and I?m not going to just watch him getting crushed like that,” Chara said after the game. “We really are brothers. We just play for each other and protect each other.”
To a man, his teammates in the Boston dressing room defended Chara’s decision to do what, as Julien said, he had to do.
“Chara stepped up for a teammate and that?s what you have to do in that situation,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “The kid was running around a bit tonight and when you make a cheap shot like that then guys like [Chara] and the rest of our teammates don?t like it and [Chara] did a nice job stepping up there.”
In fact, Marchand almost felt remorse for Emelin for having to go toe-to-toe with Chara.
“It’s tough when a young kid like that has to fight [Chara], you almost feel bad for him because you know it’s not going to go well.”
Naturally, Seguin was appreciative that his captain had his back. The young forward said he didn’t see the retaliation — he actually went to the bench and down the ramp temporarily — but he quickly got caught up.
“I didn’t see it but everyone told me. That’s the character of our team. Everyone has each other’s backs. He was the first guy I went up to when I went back to the dressing room.”
Chara’s decision was a costly one, no doubt. But it’s also a decision that no one in the Bruins’ dressing room will ever question.