Chara warms up/By S. Bradley

BOSTON – Maybe this was the reverse Willis Reed.

Once upon a time, the New York center magically emerged from the Madison Square Garden tunnel to a rousing ovation and sparked the Knicks to victory.

Tonight, Zdeno Chara, unfortunately, was forced to do the opposite for the Bruins.

Boston’s captain, who was hospitalized last night due to dehydration, dressed and took the warm-up with his teammates prior to Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Montreal. When the lineup sheet was released, however, he was listed as a scratch and did not play in Boston’s 3-1 loss.

Montreal now leads the series, 2-0, with Game 3 and 4 set for next week in Montreal.

“Hopefully it’s going to be better,” said head coach Claude Julien about Chara’s condition. “He deserves so much credit for what he did tonight, coming to the rink and going out there for warm-up. He came off the ice and he was sweaty, he was dizzy, and there was no way in the world that we could’ve used him tonight and played him. Absolutely no way. The doctors told us the same thing. I talked to him. Even attempting to come was courageous on his part. But there was absolutely no way that he could’ve played tonight. It’s unfortunate, we missed him, but certainly he did the best he could to even try. To be honest with you, it wasn’t even close.”

When asked about Chara’s treatment over the next couple days before Monday’s Game 3, Julien said it’ll be mostly rest and fluids. But he also was asked if all Chara was suffering from was dehydration.

“Obviously that’s one of the situations and we’re not going to comment any further than that,” said Julien, alluding to a bigger reason for Chara’s condition.

The coach then went on a rant that makes you wonder if he’s checking his Twitter feed between periods. If he is, I hope he’s not following me.

“But still, I know that he’s been beat up on a little bit with you some of you media that think you know better than anybody else,” said Julien while channeling Richard Nixon. “But there was no way he could play. So anything else, it’s disappointing to see people making comments. You’re going to say ‘well, we don’t know the whole thing.’ Well I think if he could’ve played, he would’ve played tonight. And he tried his best and he couldn’t play. So it’s disappointing that people would even question this guy for what he is and what he’s done.”

Let’s just say that if there were any legitimate media members at this game tonight questioning Chara’s will or intentions, I didn’t meet them. It would be interesting if what’s ailing Chara now had something to do with what forced him to leave the bench area numerous times during the Bruins’ game March 31 at the Garden. The next day Chara didn’t practice, but Julien and the Bruins reported the captain had “no issues.”

Media conspiracies or not, the Bruins now have a 2-0 hole to dig out of with or without Chara.

“It should get us even more motivated. I mean to step up and fill a void he’s leaving, I mean he is a great [role-model] type of guy. Our captain,” said defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. ” [He] doesn’t suit up, it’s tough. But that gives a chance for other guys to step up and play bigger roles.”

Instead of winning one for Chara, the Bruins fell apart to complete the “reverse Willis Reed.” Maybe he’ll be able to come back and save them up in Montreal.