The Bruins didn't know what they'd get out of the 42-year-old defenseman, who made the decision to play less than 72 hours after reportedly breaking his jaw, but his presence alone gave the Bruins a lift.
"He was medically cleared with some warnings," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "Made the decision to play. Inspirational for us. Good player for us. We knew he wouldn't be 100 percent, so we were happy to have him."
Chara played 16 minutes, 42 seconds in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night, made four hits, three blocks and took two shots on goal. It ended up as a 2-1 win by the Blues that gave St. Louis a 3-2 series win and a chance to clinch their first Stanley Cup on Sunday at home.
"He leads the team and everybody follows," Bruins forward Marcus Johansson said. "Wish we could have got the win for him, going to have to do it next game."
Chara, sporting a full shield, mostly played with his regular defensive partner Charlie McAvoy. He was not made available to speak to reporters Thursday, though before the game, he gave written answers to questions submitted from reporters.
Chara, via a transcript provided by the Bruins, said he did not weigh the risk of further injury by playing only three days after a puck deflected off his face and he gushed blood onto the ice.
"You don't think about that," Chara said. "You think about playing. You don't go into a game thinking you might get hurt."
According to sources, Chara has some wiring in his mouth, and he can speak some, though not comfortably.
Goalie Tuukka Rask said suiting up Thursday "showed [Chara's] character."
When asked if Chara was able to communicate with teammates on the ice, Rask said: "Not a whole lot."
The Bruins made the decision to play seven defensemen and only 11 forwards, which left David Backes scratched.
"We weren't sure on Z -- how much was he going to be able to play, how much was it going to affect him, his breathing, etc.," Cassidy said. "We felt that was the best way to go to make sure we were covered, in case one of our defensemen wasn't able to continue throughout the game."
The Bruins had four forwards -- Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci -- play more than 20 minutes. It was a heavy, physical game, and Cassidy said he knew the team missed some of the physical presence that Backes, a longtime former Blues player, brings to the lineup.
Boston was also hoping that defenseman Matt Grzelcyk would be able to play, though he was not medically cleared. Grzelcyk has been out since Game 2 because of a concussion on a hit by St. Louis' Oskar Sundqvist. The Blues' forward was suspended one game as a result of the play.
Instead, defenseman Steven Kampfer made his third start of the playoffs but played less than nine minutes.