Defensemen Zdeno Chara can provide the Bruins with a needed offensive component without compromising his obligations on the back end.

Chara deftly handled both duties during Tuesday night's 3-0 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins are securely entrenched atop the Northeast Division (43-23-10) and sit third in the Eastern Conference with six games remaining, starting with Toronto's visit to the Garden tonight.

Chara's effort against the Blackhawks was worthy of a candidate chasing his second Norris Trophy. He scored the Bruins' game-winning goal on a slap shot from the point, played 22:01 minutes and finished a plus-3.

Chara trails the pack among the NHL's scoring defensemen (14th overall) with 14 goals and 28 assists, but he blows away the competition in the plus/minus category with a whopping 31. Only three defensemen are better than plus-20 and none are in the top 10 in points.

"When you look at this guy's plus/minus this year, that's where this guy deserves so much credit because he always plays against the top players on the other teams," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "When you are a plus player the way he is it speaks volumes. We've got some guys that are playing against the top players of every team almost every game.

"When you can be that kind of plus player at the end of the year like that, it means you've done a heck of a job. Z's one of those guys that certainly has done that for us this year."

The B's captain thinks of himself as an all-around defenseman, a concept that may sway voters when the postseason hardware is distributed. The 6-foot-9, 255-pound Chara won the Norris Trophy for the 2008-09 season with 19 goals, 31 assists and a plus-23.