BOSTON -- Tuesday night was actually game No. 1,002 for Zdeno Chara.
But since he played the previous two games on the West Coast, the Bruins recognized the feat with a pre-game ceremony before Tuesday's game against the Tampa bay Lightning, that included a visit from his wife and daughter, and gifts from Bruins teammates and the NHL.
"Its obviously very nice to get that recognition and ceremony," said Chara after the game. "Like I said, I very much appreciate it. Its very nice from the NHL, the Boston Bruins organization, from my teammates and everybody that supported me.
"But when that ceremony is over, you have to focus on the game and you just got to be ready because you have to play 60 minutes. Theres no other way to really describe it, Just be ready and play hard the whole game."
And just like the Bruins' captain does every night, Chara --just moments after saying goodbye to his family and the ceremonial gifts -- quickly re-focused and played a more-than-solid 24-plus minutes of hockey, leading the Bruins to a 5-2 win over the Lightning.
Chara finished the game with three assists and was the only player in the game with a plus-3 rating.
"You can take away his three assists, and still look at his game and say he was solid," said Bruins coach Claude Julien after the win. "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."
Chara didn't just have three assists. He had three of the most meaningful assists in the game.
The trio of helpers came on Boston's first three goals, which included the game-winner by Benoit Pouliot with 8:26 left in regulation.
Chara had the secondary assist on Pouliot's goal. But it was his shot from the point that resulted in Brian Rolston's pass out front, which resulted in a 3-2 Bruins lead.
Chara's second assist on the night came with 4:55 left in the second period, and put the Bruins up 2-1. Chara blasted a shot from the right point, and Dennis Seidenberg cleaned up the juicy rebound at the left post, beating Dwayne Roloson upstairs.
But it was Chara's first assist of the game that was most impressive. Midway through the first period, Chara held the puck at the middle point and decided to skate it deep into the offensive zone on his own. He dangled through several Lightning players, and when he got down to the bottom of the right circle, Chara made a bold decision to take the puck hard to the net, rather than let one rip from afar.
Chara's attempt to stuff it in with force was saved by Roloson. But Shawn Thornton was on the doorstep to flip the rebound upstairs and tie the game at 1-1.
The goal went to Thornton, but it was clear who made the play happen.
"You're always taught when you take it to the net, good things will happen, and they did," said Chara. "We scored on the rebound, and it ended up being a good play.
"Sometimes things just open up for you," added the captain. "I was looking for a chance to ride the blue line, and all of a sudden I had the chance to cut that seam and I took it. And then, I kind of thought, 'Im going to have to shoot the puck right away.' And then another thing opened up and I was kind of excited to pass on shooting and I took it to the net, and sometimes those things just open up for you and you have to take advantage and make the best out of them."
And Chara made the best out of an emotional pre-game ceremony that doesn't always leave you with the proper mindset to have the type of solid performance he had on Tuesday.
"Obviously this was a special night for him, and he wanted to make sure that everything he did was good and positive," said Julien. "And he was a real solid contributor for us tonight."