SAN JOSE, CA Zdeno Chara could have had every excuse in the book not to play well against the Sharks on their first step of a three-game swing through California.
The 35-year-old Chara was on the same late season coast-to-coast flight as the rest of his team and he was asked to play upwards of 27 minutes in Bostons 2-1 loss to the Sharks at a sold out HP Pavilion in San Jose.
But Chara choked down the excuses and alibis and instead played like a warrior ready for the playoff challenge. The Bruins Captain soaked up the large chunks of ice time, finished with a game-high eight registered hits including a big statement hit on Michael Handzus in the opening minutes of the game and he scored the teams only goal in the third period. He also had a team-high three of the Bs pitiful 17 shots on net at the end of 60 minutes of hockey against a desperate San Jose bunch.
It wasnt enough for the Bruins to earn a victory, given that not enough of the Bs forward group came to play, but a reinvigorated Chara and Tim Thomas give the Bruins hope that things are indeed different this time around.
Not everyone was sluggish. Some guys werent. There were different reactions to the West coast travel, said Claude Julien. The Chris Kelly line was our best line tonight. Some of our top lines cant get scored on if theyre not going to produce.
Zee has been pretty good lately every night and leading us very well, and the Kelly line has been good for us lately as well. They had their legs tonight; you could tell.
Charas goal was a thing of marksman beauty when Chris Kelly had battled to get to the puck toward the net before throwing it toward the front while battling defenders. A spinning Benoit Pouliot had managed to graze the puck as it floated by him on the doorstep of the net, and by that time Antti Niemi had dropped onto his backside trying to cover the bottom of the net.
Chara was thinking pass to the front of the net until he saw goaltender overboard, and then he changed up and throw the puck at Niemi while using the goaltenders body as a bumper. It worked to perfection as the puck bounced off Niemis shoulder and into the back of the net to get Boston on the board.
But it wasnt enough.
I followed up the play with a few minutes left to go. The rebound came out after a few missed opportunities to shoot it and Brian Rolston did a good job of letting it get to me for a shot, said Chara. I was looking pass at first, but with so many bodies in front at that angle its almost impossible to make a pass. So I threw it at the goaltender and it worked.
"The first half of the game we werent generating enough in the offensive zone. We were playing way too much on the outside, said Chara. If we want to score then we have to put more shots on net. In the first half of the game we werent playing to our potential.
"It was still a close game when we made it a one-goal game, but to win games you cant rely on 20 or 40 minute efforts.
But the Bruins couldnt even get the puck out of their own end in the final minute to stage an empty net rally, and that was par for the course on a day of struggles.