SUNRISE, FL - Captain Zdeno Chara, standing at 6-foot-9, doesn't always score goals.
As the Bruins' top defender, he prides himself on shutting down the opposing team's scoring abilities. But when Big Zee scores, like with Sunday's highlight reel top-shelf backhander in Sunrise - wow, does he make it count.
And count it did, as the game-winner en route to a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center.
It was Chara's third of the season, but you won't hear the B's leader steering away from his focus on the team for a moment. Even if it is to enjoy his goal, that saw him spin to connect on a pass from Brad Marchand as he skated along the blueline and down near the right faceoff circle, finding a way to backhand a shot through a very small opening between Jacob Markstrom's glove hand and the right corner.
"I think it just happened," said the game-faced Chara following the victory. "Obviously you can’t really plan that kind of a goal or those kinds of moves. I mean, I always say my game is simple and that’s not my priority but I was glad - and happy that we got a lead with that goal."
The Bruin is always standing above the fray - and never lets anything impede the collective goal of coming into Florida and picking up two important wins.
"It was a big game for us," he said. "It’s always hard to play on these trips - usually it’s always a fair game and they work extremely hard and today was a great example. They never gave up, they skated really well, hard for 60 minutes. We just were able to create some chances and score some goals and it’s nice to win."
Even after the eventual game-winning tally, Zee's focused look remained as he skated through the "fist-bump" line. It was his teammates getting excited for him.
"Some guys said that was a nice goal, but I mean, I just try to stay focused on my game instead of who scores a goal and things like that."
"Pretty sick," winning goaltender Tuukka Rask said of his Captain's goal. "The pass was kind of behind him so he had to spin around, but obviously it was a sick goal."
"He’s done that on me at practice a couple of times," smiled the B's starter.
"That was pretty nice, the spin-o-rama," said an also smiling Chris Kelly, who peered to his left in the visiting team locker room, to see if his Captain was nearby hearing his accolades. "I said, 'Is that Brian Campbell out there?' that's normally his move. But, nice backhander. It's nice to see a big man like that move pretty gracefully on the ice."
"Well, pretty nice move for a big guy like that," added Coach Julien. "Again, it was one of those highlight goals that we’re going to see every once in a while."
More importantly for the B's - and for Coach - Chara's goal proved to be the game-winner, giving them a sweep of both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers on a warm-weather Sunshine State swing that hasn't always given them the easiest time in the past.
It marked the 31st time that the Black & Gold had played both teams in consecutive road games since the Panthers entered the NHL in 1993. Boston is now 7-2-1 against Florida in the second game of those sets where it defeated the Lightning in the first game.
"It was nice to get that [win]," said Coach Julien. "I know we’ve had our fair share of tough times here in Florida, always unable to really sweep here on a lot of occasions."
"And both those teams play really hard and you saw tonight they had their chances, their goaltender made some big saves at the right time and we were fortunate enough to score on our occasions. But I thought the Tampa game, same thing, it was certainly a lot closer than the score indicated."
"Tough two games for us, but nice to come out on the winning side."
And thanks to not only Chara's tally, but a first-period score by Milan Lucic, power-play goal on Chris Kelly's first of the year, and empty-netter by Daniel Paille to seal it, the B's walked away with their first three-goal margin of the victory this season, and will fly away from the heat with four points.
"We were really focusing on playing a strong game, puck position game going into the third and we knew that they were going to be pushing," said the Captain, on being able to get a bit of breathing room in the third period, with a two-goal lead. "We had really good attitudes coming into the third and we just worked hard and made some great decisions and we played really well, so that was key."
"Pretty good, 2-0," said Rask on the road trip. "We played pretty good hockey overall today…two wins - we haven’t done that in a few years so it was a good finish."
"We were aware of the coming up schedule," Chara said, acknowledging the now 33 games in 62 days, beginning with the New York Islanders on Tuesday. "And right now we’re in a situation where we can enjoy it, but at the same time, I think it’s time to compete and go about our business - that's what we do."
"It’s probably the last chance we were able to kind of relax a few days, now we’re going to have a really busy schedule catching up those games."
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