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Chara powers Bruins past Capitals as series joins physical playoffs

Hey Boston and Washington, what took you so long? Welcome, finally, to the Postseason of Hate.

Not to get all Don Cherry, who was in rare form Monday night on the CBC's Coach's Corner (one highlight: him mocking the reporters tsk-tsk-ing what has been an especially vitriolic NHL postseason with dainty badminton hand motions), but the first two games of the Bruins-Capitals series could have been sponsored by Greenpeace.

Well, to quote Bob Dylan, who they say is a closet hockey fan, things have changed.

One look at Washington's Karl Alzner mocking the Bruins' Milan Lucic with some hand motions of his own late in the third period was proof of that. Before Lucic was sent to the box for a double-minor roughing call late in the third period, Alzner rotated his clenched left hand in his eye in the classic "crybaby" mock we all remember from second grade. When it was flashed on the JumboTron of the Verizon Center, the crowd, as they say, went wild.

OK, now cue one last song lyric: who's crying now?

The defending Cup champion Bruins prevailed 4-3 in a particularly good smack-fest, taking a 2-1 series lead. Zdeno Chara has won multiple slap-shot skills contests for a reason, folks. Exhibit Z came with 1 minute, 53 seconds left, when, in a four-on-four, his one-timer from the right point caught a good portion of Roman Hamrlik's stick blade but still powered past Caps rookie goalie Braden Holtby to break a 3-3 tie.

It capped off a yeoman three-point, 26-minute, 29-second performance for Big Zed and atoned for a rare blown coverage minutes before when Washington's Brooks Laich slipped behind him and Dennis Seidenberg to tie it with six minutes left.

Chara got all of his shot, set up perfectly with a soft dish from the other point by Patrice Bergeron. The reigning Norris Trophy winner leaned his 6-foot-9, 255-pound body into the blast, which was going low but finished top cookies behind Holtby after the redirect from Hamrlik's stick.

The Bruins now have the series lead back, but perhaps just as important, their snarl, too. They played, for them, a fairly docile first two games, too much so probably for a team with scrappers and yappers such as Lucic, Brad Marchand, Andrew Ference and Shawn Thornton.

"It's getting more emotional," Chara told the Associated Press. "Players are more involved. It's starting to be more and more physical."

The Bruins were credited with a playoff league-high 58 hits in this one. Everyone on the team had at least one, except for defenseman Greg Zanon. Not that the Capitals were soft tonight. They came back at Boston any time things got rough and in fact looked like they had gotten into the Bs' heads some toward the end -- especially when Lucic was goaded into taking the extra two minutes in a scrum with Alzner and Matt Hendricks.

Lucic threw a hard left to Hendricks' head after what looked like a normal dust up, setting up what would have been a 26-second Caps power play in a tie game if Washington could have kept Boston off the scoreboard in the four-on-four, and Hendricks was done serving his two minutes for roughing with Lucic. Chara changed the Caps' plans.

By putting four pucks into the corded igloo, Boston also took some of the shine off the rook Holtby, who was starting to get a lot of "Maybe this guy is the next Patrick Roy or Ken Dryden, the rookie who comes out of nowhere in the playoffs and slays the dragon?"

That may still happen, but Holtby looked more his age in this one, especially on Brian Rolston's goal that gave Boston a 3-2 lead at 1:02 of the third.

Not to take anything away from the suddenly rejuvenated Rolston -- whose career looked finished while in exile on Long Island this season, until GM Peter Chiarelli took a chance on him at the deadline -- but his backhand chip shot was one save Holtby had to make to back the Roy/Dryden talk.

Holtby also allowed a bouncy rebound that led to Boston's second goal, by Daniel Paille, that tied it 2-2 midway through the second.

Boston's Tim Thomas managed to play pretty well despite being in proximity to the White House and having to look at multiple mug shots of President Barack Obama held against the glass. He stopped 29 of 32 shots. He also was helped out by a great block from Johnny Boychuk on Mike Green that could have saved a goal in the third.

As part of the aforementioned Coach's Corner which came during the second intermission, Cherry lavished praise on Caps coach Dale Hunter for a strategy of "not antagonizing them" and that the Bruins were "fast asleep, he's just leaving them alone."

So much for that. In fact, Washington now has to worry about losing Nicklas Backstrom for Game 4. He was given a match penalty at the end of regulation for cross-checking Rich Peverley. Such penalties usually come with a one-game suspension, but there is the chance the NHL could rescind it upon further review -- something Hunter believes should happen after looking at the tape.

"If you see it, it was not that bad," Hunter told reporters.

Funny, it's never that bad when it happens to the other side.

Something tells us there could be more truculence ahead.

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