BOSTON — Zdeno Chara just couldn’t wipe the smile off his face no matter how hard the usually stoic defenseman tried.
Chara had his first career three-goal game and Tim Thomas stopped 31 shots for his seventh shutout to lift the Boston Bruins to a 7-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday.
“It’s always nice to say I’ve done it — I’ve had a hat trick,” Chara, in his 13th season, said, smiling widely. “I did it.”
Mark Stuart, returning to the lineup after missing 18 games with a broken finger, had a goal in the first period. Gregory Campbell, Patrice Bergeron and Michael Ryder also scored for Boston, which has lost just twice in regulation in its last 13 games (8-2-3).
But the day belonged to the Bruins’ captain.
Chara’s first goal gave Boston a 2-0 lead 11:28 into opening period, chasing Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward. He made 3-0 with a power-play goal at 15:58.
“He got two early and it was so nice he got the third, but nobody wanted to say anything,” Thomas said. “It was like having a shutout.”
It was the Bruins’ second lopsided win in six days; they shut out Ottawa 6-0 with Thomas in net last Tuesday. It was also the third time in the last four games Boston scored at least six goals, something that excited Bruins coach Claude Julien.
“This is what we’ve been preaching all year,” he said “We’ve just been getting better at it.”
The teams meet again Tuesday night at Carolina. The Hurricanes lost in regulation for just the second time in 11 games (6-2-3).
“They got on a roll, felt good about themselves and away they went,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “It’s important for our team to answer back and show some character.”
Before being yanked, Ward played his 310th game for the Hurricanes, becoming the franchise’s all-time leading goaltender, surpassing Arturs Irbe.
Stuart gave Boston a 1-0 lead when he beat Ward with a slap shot from the left point 7:56 into the opening period.
After Thomas robbed Erik Cole with a right pad save on a shot from in close, Chara, who just came out of the penalty box, took a pass from defenseman Adam McQuaid at the Bruins’ blue line, broke down the left wing and flipped a wrist shot by Ward’s glove side, ending the goalie’s day after facing only five shots.
“Those are momentum changers right there,” Thomas said of his save. “It’s momentum changers to keep momentum.”
Ward skated straight off the ice, down the runway to the locker room before returning to the bench later.
Justin Peters replaced Ward and Chara fired a slap shot from the right point inside the far post for his power-play score.
Campbell, skating slowly with his back toward the net, redirected Shawn Thornton’s centering pass from the right wing by Peters, to make it 4-0 at 15:51 of the second. Bergeron collected a bad pass in front and slipped a wrister in to increase it 5-0 just 13 seconds later.
Boston also had two goals in 13 seconds in its last game, a 3-2 loss Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Peters seemed a bit miffed after the fifth goal, getting a holding penalty for grabbing Blake Wheeler’s leg and tackling him late in the second. He got a roughing penalty 18 seconds into the third for knocking down Bergeron.
“They put a lot of pucks to the net and they got a few lucky bounces,” Peters said. “But they were the better team today. No excuses.”
Ryder’s power-play score made it 6-0 early in the third, and Chara completed the hat trick with a blast from the point for a power-play score with 5:56 to play.
“A number of times I’ve had two goals and hit a post,” said Chara, still smiling. “I thought it was pretty cool.”
NOTES: Chara has six of his 10 goals in the last 10 games. He’s just the fourth defenseman in club history with a hat trick, joining Hall of Famers Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque. Glen Wesley also did it. “That’s pretty special company,” he said. “I don’t know if I deserve to be in that company.” … McQuaid assisted the first two goals, giving him his first career multipoint game. … Boston LW Milan Lucic returned to the lineup after missing three games with an undisclosed injury. … Bruins RW Mark Recchi played his 1,616th game, moving into seventh place all-time ahead of Larry Murphy. … Carolina forward Jiri Tlusty was activated from IR after missing 14 games with an upper-body injury, but he was scratched.