PHILADELPHIA Zdeno Chara couldnt smother the Cheshire Cat grin when asked if he was looking to make a statement when Jody Shelley invited him to dance during his first shift of the game.
It was also his first on-ice action in a week after suffering a left knee injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets the week before, but that didnt stop the 6-foot-9 defenseman from unleashing his fury against the Flyers tomato can. Chara tuned Shelley up with a series of stiff left-handed jabs and a couple of windmill right-hands that toppled the Flyers fighter to the ice, and the momentum was completely Bostons after already scoring first in the game.
I got a front row seat to a NHL heavyweight fight, said a smiling Tim Thomas, who watched the bout that started from a face-off in the Bs defensive zone.
It was the exclamation point to a nasty hockey game on a Saturday afternoon that had Shawn Thornton riding shotgun on shifts with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to keep Flyers players from taking runs at them. It was the kind of game that saw an instigator penalty tossed out when Johnny Boychuk came to the defense of Marchand and squared off with Scott Hartnell when the curly haired barbarian was attempting to take late shots at the agitator formerly known as Nose Face Killah.
The nastiness was all over the ice with the top two teams in the East fighting for supremacy, and the decision in both the fisticuffs and the standard action went overwhelmingly in Bostons favor by a 6-0 score at the Wells Fargo Center.
There were so many penalties on both sides that it took a little bit of the flow out of it. Those things happen, but it wasnt really the referees fault. It was just two teams out there battling, said Chara. I thought it was a pretty good game.
We tried to have really have a strong first 20 minutes and there were things happening right out from the opening face-off early on. Based on the early action everything else was happening.
The fight was so lopsided and so integral to Boston summarily knocking the wind out of the Flyers with a violent body shot that Claude Julien found himself thanking Shelly for going there following the victory.
What did at the beginning might not be the best trade-off talent-wise, but youve got to look at what else it does. He got challenged by a guy trying to set the tone for his team, and it worked the other way, said Julien. Zeeor if you want to say Shelley, gave us even more reasons to be prepared and be motivated. Hopefully we can build on that.
But enough about Charas third fight this season.
The goliath blueliner followed up on the fists of fury act with a power play blast from the left point in the first period and an assist on a Nathan Horton goal in the second period. The fight, the goal and the assist gave the Bs captain a Gordie Howe hat trick after missing two games with an injury, and signaled to the rest of the league that Chara is still very much more machine than man.
He was larger-than-life in Bostons whitewashing of the Flyers, and its only fitting that Charas return signaled Bostons ascension back into the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference. Both the Bruins and Philly have the same number of points, but the Bruins gain the slight advantage with the higher number of straight victories in the win column.
Chara finished with nearly 24 minutes of ice time and the four big shots on net that created two goals for the Boston offense, and it seemed he didnt miss a beat in his return.
He was good. He was solid. As much as we missed him, it was a good rest for him playing the kind of minutes he does. So he seemed really fresh tonight, said Julien. He was excited to play and he was ready.
A contribution that went a bit under the radar: the return to normalcy on the defensive side of the ice against a Philadelphia squad that leads the entire NHL with 3.66 goals per game. Granted the Flyers were without Claude Giroux and Chris Pronger headed into the game and then lost Sean Couturier to a nasty slap shot off the back of the head during Saturdays matinee but the Bruins still held Philly down with only 31 shots and exactly zero goals.
It wasnt anything close to the passive bunch of skaters that allowed the Kings and Senators to take 90 cracks at the net, but thats the power of the returning Captain. Its always difficult to miss the presence of Chara when hes out on the ice, and he made sure to announce it early and often to a Flyers team that certainly wished hed taken one more game off.