The first moment Zdeno Chara stepped on the ice at the Bell Centre last night, 21,273 attendees, give or take a few wearing Bruins sweaters, booed. He didn't notice.

"He's been booed in a lot of arenas," Claude Julien reminded those who were breathlessly awaiting exactly .?.?. what? What was going to happen here to the 6-foot-9 Bruins defenseman that hadn't happened before from one end of the hockey world to the other?

You're one of the strongest men in the NHL, you bump into people at high rates of speed for a living and those who come to cheer for the opposite colors of the ones you wear don't like you. So what?

Admittedly this was Chara's first visit to Montreal since he sent Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty into a stanchion and out of commission on March 8, and so much was made of it. More than it deserved frankly, because unless one of those white towel-waving fanatics or someone from the local constabulary scaled the glass to pay him a visit, Chara had only one thing to worry about — helping the Bruins fight their way back into this series.

This he did, logging 26 minutes and 20 seconds of ice time and assisting young Nathan Horton on his first playoff goal in a 4-2 win that moved the Bruins to within a Thursday night victory here of evening the series. He helped the Bruins right what had appeared to be their sinking ship after they lost the series' first two games at home and lost Chara for Game 2 to a battle with dehydration that briefly hospitalized him.

The latter had left last night's appearance in doubt until he jumped on the ice at 1:08 of that first period, and when he did the Bruins were immediately called for too many men on the ice because Andrew Ference forgot to come off.

The crowd loved that but not much else about Chara, who rammed a few Canadiens down, protected his goalie most of the game and generally skated around like he'd never heard of either Max Pacioretty or the word "revenge."

There were a few bumpy moments after the Bruins took a 3-0 lead, to be fair, but none for Chara, who stood tall as always — and not simply because he's 6-9.

"He looked great to me," Thomas said after making 34 saves. "He looked strong, especially in the first period. He had a lot of big hits.