- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins never need to have the proverbial "statement" game. All they need to do is stick to their style, to physically and mentally break down their opponent and finish with the win.
Coming off their worst game of the season, the Bruins rebounded with a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday afternoon at TD Garden. After losing 6-1 to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the Bruins realize their brand of hockey is a challenge to maintain for an entire season, and they believe Friday's victory over New York was a character win.
"We play a certain way that's hard to play 82 games that way," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "It's demanding, so you try to get players that are willing to try to play those kinds of games every night and that's what we feel we have, but it doesn't always happen. The thing I like is the character our guys showed. It's about finding ways to win and bouncing back. That last game didn't sit well with us. Instead of getting upset, we were going to get determined."
After that pitiful loss to the Red Wings, Julien had practice on Thanksgiving and held a brief closed-door meeting afterward. The coach's message was simple, and there was no yelling, screaming or throwing any furniture around the room because that's not Julien's style. Plus, this team and these players have been through it all and know exactly how they needed to respond.
"You just want to make sure you recognize the situation you're in," said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who finished with 17 saves against the Rangers. "We realize we're in first place, so that's positive. We just played a bad game [Wednesday in Detroit] and you want to bounce back and really keep things simple. That's what we did today, got pucks to the net and it paid off."
The Bruins responded, playing with emotion and bringing that physical style of play Boston is known for. The Bruins displayed more purpose and passion than the last game, showcasing their personality and their composure. They were able to create sustained pressure in the offensive zone and did not allow New York many quality chances at the other end of the ice.
"We played a good solid game all around -- lots of physical play, lots of emotion and lots of scoring chances," Julien said. "Today, I can honestly say, it was a good game, but we were the better team and that's what I wanted our team to be."
It also helped that captain Zdeno Chara set the tone.
When he's playing his best, he's effective in every aspect of the game. That was the case against the Rangers. He was steady on defense, chipped in offensively with a goal and an assist, and dropped the gloves, too, for the Gordie Howe hat trick.
"He's our leader. He's the guy who brings the emotion if it's lacking and that's what he did tonight," said Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. "He made a great pass on the first goal, a great fight and he scored the last goal. He basically won the game for us and that's what you want out of a leader -- and that's what he's been doing for many years."
After the game, Chara stood at his locker in full uniform, towering over the media scrum and sporting a black eye from his fight with the Rangers' Brian Boyle.
"He's an incredible leader," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who scored his fourth goal of the season. "Every day he comes in he shows the guys the direction that we need to go in. He always comes up big at the big times. You saw that assist on my goal, and again the game winner and how he sticks up for his teammates. We're very lucky to have him and he's definitely very tough for other teams to play against."
At the time of the fight late in the second period, the Bruins were trailing 2-1 when Chara came to the aid of teammate David Krejci, who was getting bounced around in the middle of a scrum. Chara doesn't drop the gloves often, but when he does it usually means he's really upset about something. In fact, it was his first fighting major of the season.
"It's part of the game," Chara said. "Sometimes scrums involve a lot of heated moments or emotions. You have to protect your best players in that situation. The situation just happened. Brian is really strong and a tough customer and it was something that we just kind of reacted on."
That sparked the Bruins as they produced a solid third period, scoring a pair of goals en route to victory.
Boston seemed determined to erase the disgraceful loss to the Red Wings, and it's no coincidence the Bruins' leadership core of Chara and assistant captain Patrice Bergeron made significant contributions in the win over the Rangers.
"It's important to step up, but also let everyone know that we all need to do that," said Bergeron, who scored the game-tying goal at 1:35 of the third period. "You just can't turn the page. You've got to learn from it and realize we got embarrassed. If we don't play and work the way we should work, we're not going to get the results. We're not the type of team that can play like that, so we've got to be going every night. Today was an important game to be back at it."
With this win over the Rangers, especially on the heels of Boston's worst game of the season, it's just another example of how tough the Bruins are to beat when they're playing a strong, physical game.
"At the end of the day, the Rangers really didn't have a chance," Rask said.
7dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald