BOSTON — Zdeno Chara could not remember how many times in his career he had registered what is known as the “Gordie Howe hat trick.”
He didn’t care.
“I’m not really sure; I’m just happy that we won,” the Bruins defenseman/captain said after he had the winning goal, an assist and a fight in Boston’s 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday.
Chara downplayed his second-period fight with New York center Brian Boyle, but his teammates, trying to bounce back from Wednesday night’s 6-1 loss to the Red Wings in Detroit, certainly noticed.
The home team, which wasn’t playing poorly, picked it up a notch and dominated the rest of the game.
“Like we’ve often said, he’s obviously our leader and we feed off of him. And when you see that fire like he had there, you want to step your game up and do the same,” said center Patrice Bergeron, who tied the game 2-2 early in the third period before the 6-foot-9 Chara, who tossed Boyle around like a rag doll in the second period, scored the winner at the 8:55 mark.
“There’s obviously no better leader and no better defenseman in my mind, so it was great to see him going like that,” Bergeron said.
Asked if there would be “pure fear” if he saw Chara coming at him, Bergeron laughed and said, “I would duck, for sure. I’m obviously pretty happy he’s on my side. Every game he goes to war and you feed off a guy like him.”
Chara scored his sixth goal of the year; while left winger Brad Marchand had a goal (No. 4, first in seven games) and an assist for his first multi-point game of the season. Bergeron, who scored his seventh, had his shot stopped by Henrik Lundqvist but the rebound hit New York defenseman Dan Girardi and went in 1:35 into the third.
Tuukka Rask, who allowed all six goals in Detroit, gave up first-period goals to left winger Rick Nash (his third of the year) and defenseman Ryan McDonagh (No. 6) 1:22 apart in the first period, made just 17 saves for what turned out to be a rocking-chair win.
Lundqvist made 25 saves as the Rangers finished 3-2 on a five-game road trip. New York has won seven of its last nine road games.
“This one hurts for sure,” McDonagh said. “We worked hard, we really battled in our own zone. We just spent a lot of the game there — too much of the game, really.
“We couldn’t get any flow going with our lines and couldn’t pin them in their zone as much as they did to us.”
The win was the second this month for the Bruins, the Eastern Conference leaders, over the Rangers, a team they eliminated in five games in last season’s Eastern semifinal.
The Bruins, 8-0-2 in their last 10 home games, tied the game when Marchand, rushing against center Brad Richards with McDonagh caught, set Bergeron up in the slot. Lundqvist made the save but the puck then hit off Girardi, who was tied up with right winger Loui Eriksson.
Chara, who hit the post in the first period before setting up Marchand, then scored off a pass from center David Krejci after a giveaway by New York defenseman Mark Staal.
Nash, scoring for the second straight game, used his reach and strength to move from behind the net and swoop out front before beating Rask. Then, 82 seconds later, McDonagh took a pass from center Derick Bressard and beat a screened Rask. Left winger Benoit Pouliot, a former Bruin, did the screening and was originally credited with the goal but the scoring was changed.
The two goals made it eight allowed by the Bruins in the last four periods. But they quickly bounced back.
“They manage the puck pretty well,” McDonagh said. “They’ve been together quite awhile, a lot of their top lines. They really do keep it simple. It’s never really always flashy with this team. It’s an equation for success for them, it works for them.
“We need to be stronger in our own end on those last two goals against.”
NOTES: The one-goal win kept the Bruins from playing in what would have been a club-record fifth straight overtime home game. ... D Dennis Seidenberg returned to the Boston lineup after missing four games with a lower body injury. D Kevan Miller, who played three games with the Bruins, was returned to Providence. ... New York RW Derek Dorsett, who missed Wednesday night’s game at Florida with a wrist injury, was a game-time decision and was scratched in favor of Taylor Pyatt. The Rangers also sat D Michael Del Zotto, his sixth healthy scratch of the season. ... While the Bruins host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight, the Rangers have a home matinee against the Vancouver Canucks, with former Rangers coach John Tortorella returning to New York for the first time since his firing. Tortorella and current Rangers coach Alain Vigneault traded places after last season. ... Bruins C Gregory Campbell purchased and delivered $2,000 worth of holiday pies to local shelters on Thanksgiving.