By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON After getting knocked around the ice by Ryan Malone and the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 Saturday at St. Pete Times Forum, Zdeno Chara and defense partner Dennis Seidenberg rebounded strongly with physical, productive play Monday night in the Bruins 3-1 win at TD Garden.
Chara led the Bruins with four shots on net and set the game-winning goal in motion with a confident rush into the offensive zone in the second period that sent the Tampa Bay defense scrambling around him.
The offensive pinch led to Patrice Bergeron cycling in the corner and feeding a perfect pass to Brad Marchand as he cleanly beat Martin St. Louis to the net on a backdoor play. Marchand slammed a shot past Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith with slightly more than four minutes to go in the period.
Chara has clearly been focused on the defensive end of things for much of the first two rounds of the playoffs, but there was an even-handed approach to his game in Game 5 that also resulted in the 6-foot-9 Slovakian defenseman parked in front of the net during several power-play possessions.
It was a big game, said Chara, but he added: "The next game is the most important game.
Theres been plenty of clamoring for Chara a tall drink of water, as Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith called him following Game 5 to shift around and mix it up a little bit in front of the net. Thats what coach Claude Julien finally did while thinking a bit outside the box on the power play.
Weve always had that plan in the back of our minds," said Julien. "And . . . because our power play was not very good in Tampa, we said . . . we were going to have to make some changes. And we had Zdeno . . . go to the front of the net. And I know it kind of takes something out from the back end, but we had players we kind of felt could maybe jump in at that point, and maybe at least get some shots on net.
"I thought Chara did a great job in front, and hes a big presence and hes a hard guy to move. And we had some chances and the power play at least, even if it didnt score . . . gave us at least a little bit of momentum."
Unfortunately the new look didnt yield any actual results. The Bs power play squad went 0-for-4 despite the new looks and wrinkles.
Johnny Boychuk missed the final half of the third period after getting slammed by Steve Downie behind the net, a play that drew a boarding penalty. Julien -- who said Boychuk, who had to be helped off the ice by Andrew Ference and Patrice Bergeron, was "fine" -- wasn't pleased with the hit.
"I havent had an opportunity to look at it, said Julien. I havent watched the video yet. I know some people have, but from what I hear its not a great hit. Ill maybe save my comments more for after I see it."
Julien was mixing and matching lines in the third period, and used Rich Peverley as a little bit of a swingman after shortening his bench in the third period. The Bs coach alternated Peverley and Tyler Seguin on the line with Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder during the final 20 minutes.
This is a guy who deserves the ice time he got tonight, said Julien. Late in the game on that third line, they were starting to throw Martin St. Louis . . . and starting to throw Vincent Lecavalier. They were trying to take advantage of maybe the lack of experience in Tyler.
So I had to put Peverley out there at that point and make sure we had some experience against some of those guys. This is where Pevs becomes a real useful player. He did a great job on the penalty kill and he jumped in there on the third power play that we had. He was used for faceoffs and was very good . . .
"You cant just put a guy like him, basically, on the fourth line and just give him a few minutes. He served us really well tonight. He played a real solid game.
Peverley finished with 14 minutes of ice time, scored the empty-net goal that made the final 3-1, and won five out of six faceoffs as part of a strong effort by the Bs centers, who dominated the faceoff circle Monday night.
Chris Kelly was wearing the Bruins Chalk Line 1980s jacket following Monday nights Game 5 victory after playing a pivotal role on the penalty kill unit that held the Lightning to an 0-for-4 night. Kelly joked after the game that the biggest reason he was wearing the jacket was because of the team rule that one player couldnt wear the jacket in back-to-back wins a stipulation that eliminated the spectacular Tim Thomas from consideration.
Historically, Game 5 has proved crucial for the Bruins when a best-of-seven series. The Bs are 17-4 when they lead a series 3-2 and 2-16 when they trail a series 3-2. The Lightning, meanwhile, are 2-0 when they lead a series 3-2, and 2-2 when they trail a series 3-2.