Chara lifts Bruins past Caps 4-3 for series lead

Boston Bruins left wing Brian Rolston (12) celebrates his goal with teammates Dennis Seidenberg (44), Zdeno Chara (33) and Chris Kelly (23) during the third period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series against the Washington Capitals, Monday, April 16, 2012, in Washington. The Bruins won 4-3. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

WASHINGTON – Suddenly, Bruins-Capitals turned into Flyers-Penguins, replete with scraps and all sorts of scrums – not to mention quite a bit of offense thrown in.

From the high stick that knocked off Boston captain Zdeno Chara’s helmet, to the cross-check to Rich Peverley’s face at game’s end that earned a match penalty for Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom, and all sorts of mayhem in between, Game 3 “was kind of like a rugby game,” Capitals coach Dale Hunter said.

“The only thing that’s disappointing for me personally is that this is the third time in three games our player has been cross-checked in the face. … You hope that those things don’t get out of hand,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Somebody else, not us, has to deal with that.”

Thanks to Chara, the Bruins came out on top.

Chara scored the tiebreaking goal during 4-on-4 play with less than 2 minutes left, and the reigning Stanley Cup champion Bruins finally solved playoff rookie goalie Braden Holtby, beating the Capitals 4-3 Monday night to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round Eastern Conference series.

“It’s getting more emotional,” Chara said. “Players are more involved. It’s starting to be more and more physical.”

The 6-foot-9 owner of a 100-plus mph slap shot was involved in pretty much every key play: He was in the penalty box when Alexander Semin scored the game’s first goal for Washington; he had two assists; and his final shot from the right circle appeared to get deflected by Capitals defenseman Roman Hamrlik – “Lucky goal,” Hunter said – on its way past Holtby.

“It was nice to see him get that. He got clipped there in the head; a little frustrated from the non-call. He had a penalty early in the game for I thought just holding his own,” Julien said. “So he’s been good at not getting frustrated at those things. Because he stays with it, he ends up getting rewarded with a big goal.”

Game 4 is Thursday in Washington, before the best-of-seven series moves back to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday.

“Hopefully, it can give us some real momentum moving forward – and we can win a couple games by two goals,” said Tim Thomas, last season’s playoff MVP, who made 29 saves and ignored the taunting from fans who held up photos of President Barack Obama, reminding him that he turned down a trip to the White House in January with his teammates.

Peverley, Brian Rolston and Daniel Paille scored for the Bruins.

Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Laich got Washington’s other goals. Laich scored on a breakaway with 6 minutes left to make it 3-3, but Chara came through with 1:53 remaining for second-seeded Boston.

Holtby, who blocked 72 of 74 shots through the first two games, was good but not great Monday, making 25 saves.

Game 1 went to overtime before Boston won 1-0, and Game 2 wasn’t decided until the second extra period, when Washington claimed a 2-1 victory. Two games and a whopping total of four goals.

There were four goals in 1


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