SEATTLE — Zdeno Chara can’t help but make an impressive impression. Being 6-9, 250 pounds and starting an NHL career way back in 1997 that will end in the Hall of Fame says a lot, even if he often does not, at least publicly.
Chara, 44, tied Hall of Famer Chris Chelios’ NHL record for the most games played by a defenseman Tuesday night. He dressed for the 1,651st time in the regular season and got his 467th assist as the Islanders opened a five-game road trip with a 5-2 win over the expansion Seattle Kraken in their first visit to Climate Pledge Arena.
Chara is in line to set the record on Thursday night in San Jose.
"Be honest with you, Z didn’t want anything," coach Barry Trotz said. "This tells you a lot about the man. He talked about the team. He didn’t want anything really about the accomplishment, which is absolutely remarkable. There wasn’t any T-shirts or hats or anything like that. The most important thing for him was for us to play well and win a hockey game."
"Big Z hasn’t mentioned it at all," said Brock Nelson, who opened the scoring at 8:53 of the first period, marking just the second time in 13 games the Islanders have scored first. "An incredible achievement, the amount of hockey he’s played. The level he’s played at. He doesn’t bring it up."
Chara logged 19:51 with four hits, two blocked shots and the assist on Zach Parise’s empty-netter for the Islanders (19-20-7), who are 17 points out of a playoff spot.
Ilya Sorokin made 23 saves in his seventh straight start and Mathew Barzal’s reconstituted top line combined for five points as Parise had his first two-goal game as an Islander and Kyle Palmieri added his fourth goal in four games.
Philipp Grubauer stopped 31 shots for the Kraken (16-33-4), who lost their fifth straight.
Chara’s Islanders teammates quickly noticed the relentless work ethic that has kept him in the league for 24 seasons, including 14 as the Bruins captain from 2006-20 and a Stanley Cup in 2011.
"My first impression was the first week really just watching him in the gym," said Barzal, who had an assist in his homecoming after playing four years of junior hockey with the Seattle Thunderbirds. "Usually, I’m in there on off days and after practice, I’ll get a little workout in. I kept going up there and he was up there before me and I would finish mine and then he’d still be doing something. I was like, ‘Oh my god, this guy has a crazy engine.’"
Chara started his NHL career with the Islanders, who drafted him in the third round in 1996 before trading him to the Senators in 2001. Chara spent last season with the Capitals before signing a one-year, $750,000 deal with the Islanders.
"You talk with anyone around the league, he’s just a great guy, a great team guy," Chelios told NHL.com. "I’m not going to say I’m happy. But it doesn’t bother me one bit that a guy like him is the guy breaking the record. Congratulations to him, it’s a heck of a feat."
And one better celebrated with a win.
Parise made it 2-0 at 17:19 of the first period as defenseman Noah Dobson’s shot deflected in off him with Trotz successfully challenging the initial call of goalie interference.
Palmieri and Casey Cizikas pushed it to 4-0 in the second period before Yanni Gourde scored on the Kraken’s seventh shot at 11:18 of the middle frame and Riley Sheahan made it 4-2 at 1:35 of the third period.