On Black Friday, Zdeno Chara seemed happy to take on the role as the bad guy as far as the New York Rangers were concerned. All dressed in black, sporting an appropriate black eye from an earlier game and playing his typical rugged style of defense, Chara was a force for the Boston Bruins in a game the NHL was hoping for its stars to shine for a national TV audience.
In the second annual Thanksgiving Showdown, a tradition the NHL hopes its fans adopt as part of their own holiday celebrations, Chara delivered in a big way. With his fourth career Gordie Howe hat trick -- a goal, assist and fight -- Chara was one of the game's most visible players.
At 6-foot-9, 255 pounds, he's hard to miss, but it was his play that made him particularly stand out Friday.
Chara was heavily involved in Boston's first goal, which opened the game's scoring. The big man got involved in the offensive play and delivered a perfect pass to Brad Marchand who one-timed the puck into the back of the net emphatically to make it 1-0.
In the second period, with the Bruins trailing 2-1 (with one of New York's goals coming after Chara got burned by Rick Nash), the Bruins captain took exception with Brian Boyle having a few words with David Krejci in a scrum near the Rangers' net. Boyle and Chara then dropped the gloves.
In Boyle, Chara found a sparring partner more his size, which is quite rare. It was a battle of literal heavyweights, with a combined height of 13 feet, 4 inches and nearly 500 pounds. The 6-foot-7, 244-pound Boyle was no match for Chara, who delivered a few heavy rights to the big Rangers centerman.
The most impactful play of them all, however, was Chara's go-ahead goal in the third period. With the Bruins tying the game on a fluky goal earlier in the period, Chara scored the good ol' fashioned way – with a heavy shot from the top of the point.
With a clear lane to the net, Chara unleashed one of his famous slapshots that Henrik Lundqvist actually got in front of, but it didn't matter. The Rangers netminder only was able to get a piece of the puck as it went through him and in. Lundqvist deserves a medal for just trying to get in front of that thing. That goal stood up as the game-winner and Chara was named the game's first star.
In a battle between two Original Six teams, it wasn't always pretty, but it was an entertaining game with star players making a big difference. The hard-fought tilt between the Bruins and Rangers is another indicator that Black Friday afternoon hockey is a tradition that is here to stay.