Zdeno Chara defends Capitals teammates, fights Matt Martin in heavyweight bout

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Nick Goss
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Chara fights Martin, sends message to Islanders as first-place race heats up originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Washington Capitals were about to suffer an awful 8-4 loss to the New York Islanders when Zdeno Chara gave his team a jolt in the final seconds of regulation.

The veteran defenseman, at age 44, is as willing as ever to step up for his teammates and provide a spark when the situation arises.

Chara dropped the gloves and fought Islanders forward Matt Martin, who, like his opponent, is no stranger to fighting majors.

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You might be thinking, what's the big deal about a fight at the end of a blowout? Well, there's more to it than that.

“What I love about this is Zdeno Chara is actually sending a message for the next game that these two teams play,” NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May said after the game, as transcribed by Russian Machine Never Breaks.

“That was about the much bigger Ross Johnston going after Garnet Hathaway so the much bigger Zdeno Chara went after Matt Martin there. It’s just about evening out the score. If you’re going to do that, we’ll do it right back.”

The Capitals and Islanders play again in four days. It will be an important matchup as both teams tussle for first place in the East Division. The chances of these teams meeting in a playoff series in the spring also are pretty high.

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Chara fighting Martin was a message to the Islanders that the Capitals won't be bullied, and it was a message to his teammates that they need to play smarter and harder against the best teams.

The veteran defenseman is making a strong impact on the Capitals blue line in his first campaign with the franchise.

The Capitals are outscoring, outshooting and generating more scoring chances during 5-on-5 play when Chara is on the ice this season, per Natural Stat Trick. He's also been an integral part of the team's penalty kill, a unit with the 10th-best success rate in the league. 

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The decision not to give Chara a premium role is looking more and more like a huge mistake by the Boston Bruins, who clearly misjudged the readiness of their young defensemen entering the season. Chara's defensive abilities, experience, leadership and penalty killing prowess are exactly what Boston needs on its blue line right now.

Instead, the Bruins will likely have to give up valuable assets at the trade deadline to acquire those skills that are lacking in the defensive corps.