BOSTON -- To a man, including coach Claude Julien, the Boston Bruins had zero issues with Zdeno Chara's actions in defending teammate Tyler Seguin, even though the captain was issued 17 costly minutes in penalties in Boston's 4-3 loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night at TD Garden.
The Bruins held a 3-2 lead when the Canadiens' Alexi Emelin broke his stick when he cross checked Seguin in the rib cage. Boston's top winger fell to the ice and Chara quickly tracked down Emelin and started to pummel him at 15:35 of the second period.
Chara was given a two-minute penalty for instigating, a five-minute major for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct. With their best defenseman in the penalty box, the Bruins surrendered their lead as Montreal scored a pair of goals early in the third period en route to the victory.
"Zdeno did what he had to do," Julien said. "When a guy cross checks one of your good players in the ribs and breaks his stick, and if the referees aren't going to call it, then we've got to do what we've got to do here. That's what [Chara] did and I support that. It's a teammate protecting a teammate.
"[Seguin] was one of our good players tonight too, so we're a team that reacts to those kinds of things, and when people take liberties on our good players, we go to their defense."
Without Chara's services, the Bruins allowed only four shots in the third period, but two of them went in. Julien clearly was upset after the game, and when asked if he was given an explanation for the non-call on Seguin, the coach said, "Oh, it looks like nobody saw it."
Seguin appeared to be hurt on the play and when he got up, he quickly went down the tunnel toward the locker rooms. He returned and did not miss a shift.
"I didn't really see that guy coming," Seguin said. "I don't know if they call it a 'bridge' or whatnot, but that guy kind of came across and his stick came up on my side."
Seguin explained he didn't see Chara come to his aid, but was thrilled with his teammate's response.
"That's the character of our team," he said. "Everyone has each other's back, and he was the first one I went up to when we went back to the dressing room."
The following day, after the 7-4 loss to the Sabres on Jan. 31 at the Garden, Chara was asked if he should have responded differently, but the captain was focused on the team's next game in Toronto. His teammates scoffed at the idea that Chara didn't do his job.
"I think it was unfair for Z to get that criticism earlier in the season," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said after Sunday's game. "Why would we want Z, who is the best defenseman in the league, to fight John Scott, [who] plays three minutes a game. It's not a trade-off we want. Z knows the right time to step up and fight for his teammates, and tonight was that time.
"When it's one of their guys who plays a lot of minutes and a pretty good defenseman takes a run at our top guy, it was the right time for Z, and he did the right thing. He doesn't need anyone to tell him when to do it. He knows when and we saw that tonight."
At 6-foot-9, 255 pounds, Chara is one of the biggest and strongest players in the NHL. He doesn't drop the gloves often, but when he does it's warranted. The Bruins need and want him on the ice, logging the minutes he does each game.
"It's not my priority," Chara said of fighting. "I like to play, play hard and physical, and when it comes down to it, I never had a problem with it. But it's not my first option."
After Seguin fell to the ice, Chara went right after Emelin. Chara knew he would be in the box for at least five minutes for fighting, but wasn't expecting the number of penalty minutes he received for his actions.
"I didn't think I was getting 17, that's why I was kind of hesitating a little bit before I dropped the gloves," Chara said. "I was waiting for him to drop them, too, so then maybe it would be two five[-minute penalties]. But that's something they made a decision on and I've got to live with that. The main thing, obviously, is I saw Tyler being hurt."
Even though Seguin did not miss any time because of the play, Chara said he didn't know his teammate was not injured until afterward.
"You have to protect each other and he's one of our better players," Chara said. "I'll do it for anybody, but in that situation, it was just second nature for me to react that way."
Julien not only agreed with his captain's actions, he basically said that if the on-ice officials aren't going to make the proper calls, then he has no problem with his players stepping in and taking matters into their own hands.
Julien didn't hold back on his comments about the Canadiens.
"It's frustrating," Julien said. "Right now the frustrating part is you end up 17 minutes in the penalty box when we should have been on the power play. It's as simple as that, and it's frustrating. Tonight, as everybody saw, there was a lot of embellishment and this is embarrassing for our game -- the embellishing.
"Right now, they've got over 100 power plays so far, and it's pretty obvious why. We're trying to clean that out of our game and it's got to be done soon. It's not about tonight, it's about the game, and the embellishment embarrasses our game."
"You know what, if we start calling those penalties for embellishment, maybe teams will stop doing it. But until we take charge of that, it's going to be an issue," Julien said.
Subban and Marchand were chirping at each other the entire game. The two dropped the gloves last season, and the Montreal defenseman, who towers over Marchand, tried to get him to go again on Sunday.
"Subban asked me to fight, then three or four guys asked to fight him and he's running scared from [Nathan] Horton," Marchand said. "He's coming after the smallest guy on the team, so it just shows what kind of character they have there."
The energy and relentless style of play from both teams Sunday did not disappoint. Montreal's win snapped Boston's six-game winning streak. But from an offensive point of view, the line of Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Seguin continues to dominate.
Bergeron had a goal and two assists, giving him a total of 11 points in the past seven games. Marchand had three assists and has nine points in the past seven games. Seguin had a goal and an assist, giving him nine points in the past eight games.
"We need more out of the other lines and tonight wasn't a night where we got that," Julien said. "It's a credit to them. Patrice had a great night. Marchy, obviously with three assists, and Tyler was skating well and competing well. That was a good line for us. Another line or two like that with that same work ethic, we would have been fine."
Montreal left Boston sitting atop both the Eastern Conference and the Northeast Division with 32 points. Despite the loss, and the loss of Chara for 17 minutes during Sunday's game, the Bruins once again proved to opposing teams that they will not change their style of play. They're going to play physical, and that's a major reason why Boston has been successful in recent years under Julien.
Chara did the right thing. His coach agrees, and so do his teammates.
"We really are brothers," Chara said. "We just play for each other and protect each other."
The one thing Boston couldn't protect on Sunday, however, was its lead.