By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
There’s just something about a must-win situation that brings the best out of the Bruins.
In Columbus for what felt like an obvious must-win Game 4 — a loss would mean three straight defeats and a true do-or-die Game 5 in Boston on Saturday — the Bruins got goals from Patrice Bergeron (two, actually), David Pastrnak, and another clutch tally from Sean Kuraly en route to a series-evening 4-1 win at Nationwide Arena.
Oh, and a sensational 39-save performance from netminder Tuukka Rask.
It was the perfect recipe for success in a series that had seen the Bruins’ best go AWOL at a most inopportune time.
And it came quickly for Bruce Cassidy’s squad, too.
Sticking with his top line despite their lack of success, Cassidy’s Perfection Line needed just 3:33 to finally get a goal through Sergei Bobrovsky, as Pastrnak snuck a one-timer through Bobrovsky and into the Columbus net for his fourth goal of the postseason. And with the Bruins sent to the power play just 3:05 later, it was Bergeron that extended Boston’s edge to 2-0.
The Blue Jackets would get an obvious break before the end of the opening 20, though, as Artemi Panarin converted on a chance sparked by the puck hitting the protective netting above the glass behind the net. Apparently, not a single referee saw the puck hit the (shaking) netting, and as the Bruins struggled to find where the puck was, it was Pierre-Luc Dubois and Oliver Bjorkstrand that corralled and recovered the puck and fed Panarin for his fifth goal of the postseason.
The play was not reviewable because of the insane rationale that it didn’t go off the netting and immediately drop into the net.
But the Bruins soldiered on with their one-goal edge for the next 40-plus minutes — and with the Blue Jackets nearly converting on half a dozen shorthanded looks and more than a few power-play looks — before it was Sean Kuraly’s net-front presence that helped push the Black and Gold’s lead back to two at the 8:40 mark of the third period.
The two-goal edge was not enough for the Bruins to settle, though, as Bergeron struck on the power-play for the second time, and sent the Blue Jackets’ beloved Fifth Line to the exits with a goal scored with 2:30 remaining in the third period.
It was hardly a masterpiece for the Bruins in this game.
The goals were welcomed, but it was the power play that noticeably struggled in this game, with countless chances against Rask before Cassidy made the switch to go with his second unit as the power-play starters and moved to a two-defensemen look on his first unit. And the B’s penalty kill once again struggled to get clean clears on a consistent basis.
But it was Rask that made the difference, with 39 saves, and a battle level that made an obvious difference for Boston.
“It’s about wins at this point of the year,” Rask said after the victory, which improved the Bruins to 4-1 following a loss this postseason. “We just try to grind it out. We knew we needed one out of here. It’s best out of three now.”
Game 5 will be Saturday night in Boston.