Chara makes birthday wish come true

BOSTON -- Bruins captain Zdeno Chara had a little extra motivation to end Boston's first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday in Game 5.

His wife, Tatiana, and their daughter, Elliz, share the same birthday -- April 27. Before Chara left for work Saturday morning, he made his soon-to-be 5-year-old daughter a promise.

"I promised her I would do everything, anything to stay home," Chara said after Boston's 4-2 win to eliminate the Red Wings in the best-of-seven series 4-1.

Had the Bruins lost, they would have returned to Detroit on Sunday in preparation for Game 6 on Monday at Joe Louis Arena. Instead, Chara will be watching when his wife and daughter blow out their birthday candles.

"Unbelievable," Chara said with a huge smile.

Chara scored the Bruins' go-ahead, power-play goal in the closing seconds of the second period to give Boston a 2-1 lead. He logged 22:43 of ice time and finished with an even plus/minus rating. His goal at 19:56 of the second period came during a 4-on-3 man-advantage for Boston. The Bruins controlled the puck in the corner to the right of Detroit goaltender Jonas Gustavsson when the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron made a sharp, tape-to-tape, cross-ice pass to Chara, who blasted a one-timer from the top of the right faceoff circle and beat Gustavsson to the top right corner.

"I'm not really looking at it as a slap shot, I'm looking at it as a goal that put us ahead," Chara said. "It was at the end of the second so it gave us, obviously, a jump. It really doesn't matter at the end of the day if it was a bomb or kind of bouncing puck that goes in. They all count and that's what matters."

His goal gave the Bruins momentum and the 17,565 fans rose out of their seats in celebration. Chara stepped into that one-timer with such force it should have ripped through the twine.

"Oh, yeah, of course it felt good -- don't get me wrong," he said. "You work so hard to hit those kinds of shots in that specific area and it's hard. In practice, you're getting puck after puck and you can time it, but in a game there's one puck, once chance, one pass and you have to bury it. So, for sure, if that goes in, all those one-timers, all those shots you take in practice, and you're really trying to work hard to make sure you put it in, it pays off."

It paid big dividends for the Bruins.

"It was huge," Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. "You look at it, 14 seconds left and a 4-on-3 there, and you knew that if you can go into the second intermission there getting back up a goal it would definitely give you that momentum back and kind of that positive mindset back and that one-goal lead heading into the third period. It lifted everyone on our team. So huge goal by the power-play unit that was out there, finding that puck and Bergy making that great play to Zee and Zee obviously using his lethal shot and getting it in the back of the net."

That momentum carried into the third period when Lucic scored early in the third period to give Boston a 3-1 lead. The Red Wings cut the deficit to one goal late in the third, but the Bruins added an empty-net tally by Jarome Iginla in the closing seconds for a 4-2 win.

"That series was much tougher than maybe the results showed," Chara said. "Detroit is a really good team with a great system, great players. We were just able to play our game and stay on top of it. It wasn't a one-sided series; it was much closer than 4-1 showed. I think that we handled it well, we came into this series ready and we got the job done."

Up next: The Montreal Canadiens. Sitting at his locker stall after Saturday's win, Chara was asked about the Bruins' next opponent, but the captain was too tired and remained focused on the series that just ended.

"I'm just happy that we moved on," he said.

The birthday girls are, too.