The competitor in Zdeno Chara got what it wanted Saturday night — two points against his ex-teammates.
The sentimental side of Chara, though, also got a bit of what it wanted, as the Boston Bruins rallied from three goals down to earn an overtime point. And they did it on the back of Boston’s new No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who scored the tying goal in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals in Washington, D.C.
Chara, 14 years a Bruin, can rest easy knowing his former team is in safe hands.
McAvoy was strong at the defensive end. On the road without the second change, coach Bruce Cassidy had to let the McAvoy-Jeremy Lauzon pair roll against the line of Nicklas Backstrom centering Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson 5-on-5. That Capitals trio managed just a couple scoring chances all night against the Bruins’ new top pair.
Offensively, McAvoy shined as well. He set up Brad Marchand’s goal that cut the Capitals’ lead 3-2 with 6:03 gone in the third period. After the Bruins won a faceoff, McAvoy activated and took the puck all the way behind the Washington net before he found Marchand out front for a catch-and-release wrist shot that beat Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek.
With Tuukka Rask on the bench for an extra attacker, McAvoy then quarterbacked the crucial 6-on-5. After he saw David Krejci’s stick shatter on a one-timer attempt, McAvoy got dirty in front of the net and was part of the legion of Bruins jamming at the puck before he finally banged it past Vanecek with 58 seconds left — McAvoy’s first goal of the season.
“I was lucky enough that it came back to me,” McAvoy said after the win.
But luck is often the product of aggression, and that’s what McAvoy created by mixing it up in the slot rather than sitting back. Same thing with his assist on Marchand’s goal. McAvoy took the Bruins on his back and helped will them to the tie and one point in the standings that could be important come playoff time.
It was ironic that McAvoy shined offensively at crunch time considering Saturday was the first time this season Cassidy decided to unveil his five-forward power play, both when the Bruins were down 3-0 late in the second period, and again in the third period when they were trailing 3-2. Nick Ritchie scored on a deflection of a Krejci shot in the second period, but Boston’s power play came up empty the second time.
McAvoy got some ice time on the first power-play during other man advantages, and saw time with the second unit in the third period. But 6-on-5, Cassidy unleashed McAvoy with five forwards, and it paid off.
Cassidy said after the game that the five-forward group might see more time moving forward. “Situational” he called it. Well, McAvoy proved that when the Bruins are most desperate for offense, he shouldn’t be sidelined, so there’s really no situation where he should be running the first power play, potentially even when Matt Grzelcyk returns from injury.
In Chara’s (and Torey Krug’s) absence, McAvoy has taken over the Bruins’ defense corps and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be featured 5-on-4 as much as he is 5-on-5 to put the Bruins in the best position to win, regardless of the score.
The Bruins let Chara leave so they could empower McAvoy. They should keep upping his workload as long as he continues to prove he can handle almost anything.