By Phil Stacey
---- — BOSTON — On the list of most-wanted things Bruins fans love to see from their team, the rare Gordie Howe Hat Trick is among their favorites.
Captain Zdeno Chara earned that rare triple treat during yesterday’s traditional day-after Thanksgiving matinee by dishing out an assist, scoring a clear takedown in a scrap with the New York Rangers’ Brian Boyle, and most importantly scoring the game-winning goal with 8:55 remaining as the Bruins prevailed, 3-2, before the 181st straight sellout at the TD Garden.
Chara took a pass from David Krejci just inside the blueline and fired a rocket shot past goaltender Henrik Lundqvist for his sixth goal of the season. He was also a plus-2 for the game as the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins improved to 17-7-2.
“He’s an incredible leader and every day he comes in, he shows the guys the direction that we need to go in,” Brad Marchand, who scored Boston’s first goal, said of the 6-foot-9 Chara. “He always comes up big at the big times. You saw with that assist on my goal, and again the game-winner and how he sticks up for his teammates.
The Bruins trailed, 2-1, after two periods. Chara got into it with Boyle, the 6-foot-7 center from Hingham, with five minutes to go in the second stanza while sticking up for Krejci to the left of Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
New York hadn’t lost in its last 101 regular season games when it held a lead after two periods (96-0-5) prior to yesterday.
The third period wasn’t yet two minutes old when Patrice Bergeron’s one-timer out front found its way over Lundqvist’s right shoulder, tying the contest. Marchand worked his way down to Lundqvist’s left, spun away from defenseman Ryan McDonagh and fired a pass to Bergeron in the slot. His attempt hit Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi (battling out front with Boston’s Loui Eriksson) in the shoulder and bounced into the net. Chara’s howitzer a little under 10 minutes later wound up deciding the contest.
The hosts scored first 11:42 into the opening period when Eriksson backhanded the puck from behind the Rangers’ net Chara near the top of the left circle. The blueliner promptly zipped a cross-ice pass to Marchand in the lower right dot, and his one-timer cleanly beat Lundqvist. It was Marchand’s fourth goal of the season.
Rick Nash used his strength and skill to even things up for New York a little over a minute later, muscling his way from behind the Boston net and beating Rask with a wrister from the slot. Less than a minute-and-a-half later the Rangers took a 2-1 lead after McDonagh’s shot beat Rask blocker side.