Chara: Quite a display
Stoic blue liner aglow after his first hat trick
Zdeno Chara couldn’t stop the smile. It kept coming back. The Bruins’ stoic captain is a 6-foot-9-inch tower on defense, the first one assigned to stop the opposing team’s toughest forward line, and the man with the hardest shot in the game. And he’s usually the player with the sternest expression on the bench, or in the locker room. It’s not all fun and and games for the serious Slovak. Actually, it seems as if it’s never fun and games for him.
But yesterday, Chara did something he never had done before: He scored three times, leading the Bruins past the Hurricanes, 7-0, at TD Garden. Chara became the fourth defenseman in Bruins history to score a hat trick, joining Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, and Glen Wesley in a select quartet.
“That’s pretty special company, I don’t know if I deserve to be in that company,’’ said Chara, who collected his eighth, ninth, and 10th goals of the season. “It happened, I’m happy, I’m humbled, and you move on, it’s another game tomorrow.’’
It took Chara 892 games in the NHL to get his first hat trick, but it was obvious he was thrilled. When he sliced a shot between Carolina goalie Justin Peters’s pads for his third goal of the game at 14:04 of the third period, Chara threw his arms up in the air and then playfully pretended to doff his helmet and throw it out on the ice to celebrate. The crowd roared, and within seconds, the ice was peppered with hats.
“I saw Peter Bondra once do it,’’ Chara said of his hat-tossing pantomine, “so I remembered that, and I remembered if I ever get a hat trick, I’ll want to do it, too. I thought it was pretty cool.’’
The Bruins were on their fifth power play of the game, and Chara already had connected on a 2-on-1 break and a 5-on-3 power play in the first period.
There were plenty of smiles on the Bruins’ bench, too.
“I’m very happy for him,’’ said Tim Thomas, who made 31 saves for his seventh shutout of the season. “He got two early and I was hoping he’d get that third. Of course, nobody wanted to say anything. It’s kind of like a shutout; you don’t say it, but I was very happy when he actually finished that hat trick off.’’
“It’s great; he’s got that great shot,’’ said Milan Lucic. “We all saw how excited he was about it.’’
Chara said he never really thought about getting the trick until it happened.
“David [Krejci] gave me the puck,’’ said Chara about the setup. “It really wasn’t that great of a shot. It was just hard enough to go through [the 5-hole].’’
It didn’t take long, however, for Chara to return to his usual solemn demeanor.
“I wasn’t really thinking about scoring the third goal, I was thinking about making the right play,’’ he said. “It’s always been my priority to win the games. That’s playing good defensively and that’s my job, to shut down top lines. I take my pride in that than obviously thinking about hat tricks.’’
And still, the smile kept coming back as Chara relived his game.
“You’re always kind of thinking about it would be nice to have that kind of a game in your career,’’ he said, “so then you can say, ‘Hey, I’ve done it, I had a hat trick.’ But for myself, it took 14-15 years, so I’m not expecting to have another one soon.’’
The first one to ask Chara for his autograph after the game was named Julien — Katryna Julien, the Bruins coach’s little girl, who shyly approached Chara to ask him to sign her Bruins jersey. Her dad was appreciative, too, as much for Chara’s defensive effort as his stack of goals.
“When you can shut down a guy like [Eric] Staal and his line, you’re doing a pretty good job,’’ said Julien.
Even Chara’s defense partner, Steven Kampfer, who was playing his first game with a full face shield after an inadvertent run-in with Chara’s stick in the last game, was happy to see Chara make such a momentous mark with his stick.
“I was glad my nose gave him a little luck,’’ said Kampfer.