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Rask, top line pace Bruins to huge Game 4 victory over Blue Jackets

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Tuukka Rask does not pay attention to the headlines or the comment sections. But if he did, he would know that his counterpart between the Columbus pipes has been showered with high acclaim - rightfully so - for his performance early on in this best-of-seven showdown between the Bruins and Blue Jackets.

Through three games, it was Sergei Bobrovsky garnering all the praise for giving Boston fits with his lights-out performances in Games 2 and 3, both Columbus victories.

"I don't read the headlines," said Rask. "Every series it's a goalie battle to a certain extent."

That it is. And on Friday morning, it will be Rask's turn to have his name trending across the hockey world.

Boston's ace netminder was immense on Thursday night at Nationwide Arena, making 39 saves to lead a stellar performance by the Bruins' leading men in a 4-1 victory over the Blue Jackets in Game 4 to tie the series at two games apiece.

"Tuukka was outstanding," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "I thought he really fought hard to compete on second chances tonight, especially their power play. I think it was in the third period, there were a lot of second chances…I thought he really competed hard to find pucks in there, made some good saves on some odd-man rushes at angles. And then obviously the penalty shot. Big turning point in the game."

Video: BOS@CBJ, Gm4: Rask denies Jenner on penalty shot

It sure was. Rask's most impressive - and crucial - stop of the night came early in the first period with the Bruins leading, 1-0, and on the power play. Columbus forward Boone Jenner was tripped up by Brad Marchand on a shorthanded breakaway attempt and was awarded a penalty shot, during which weaved in from the red line and fired a shot that Rask brushed away with a blocker stop.

"Just tried to stay patient, wait for a shot or a deke. Hit my blocker," Rask said matter-of-factly.

But there was no downplaying the importance of the save, which gave the Bruins some renewed life on what had been a dismal power play. Boston regrouped and eventually broke through just 26 seconds later when Patrice Bergeron ripped home a wrister from the slot off a feed from Marchand to put the Bruins up, 2-0, midway through the first period.

"Huge because we score on that power play right after," said Bergeron. "It's a huge stop, especially early in the game like that. He gave us a chance to redeem ourselves on the power play and get that goal. He's been great for us throughout the playoffs and tonight was no different."

Bergeron's tally was one of two power-play goals for Boston's No. 1 centerman, who paced the resurgence of the B's top line. After combining for just one point through the first three games of the series, Bergeron, Marchand, and David Pastrnak racked up three goals and five points on a night when the Bruins needed them most.

"They've been right there," said Marchand. "We've gotten a lot of heat, but if you break down the chances we've had game to game, we're getting five, six really good opportunities every game. It's a matter of time before those guys score goals. You give them that many opportunities every game they're gonna score. That's just the way it is. They're too good."

Video: Bergeron scores twice as Bruins even series

And it was the top guns that made sure to affirm that in the early going. In addition to Bergeron's power-play tally, the trio also struck for the game's opening goal just 3:33 into the first period, as Pastrnak took Charlie McAvoy's cross-ice feed and trickled a one-timer through Bobrovsky for his fourth of the playoffs.

"That was a good bounce, great play, great pass by Chuck," said Pastrnak. "Obviously it's always great to score the first goal, especially on the road. It's big, but we played a really strong game. Really happy with our outcome."

As well as the Bruins started out, that outcome was not guaranteed. Columbus pushed hard after Bergeron's goal and was aided by a controversial call just over a minute later when Artemi Panarin beat Rask after collecting a loose puck that had deflected off the netting above the glass seconds earlier.

The officials did not see the puck bounce out of play and after a furious effort by the Bruins to have them reconsider the call, it was determined that the sequence was not reviewable. The goal remained on the board and brought Columbus within one, setting the tone for a strong surge by the Blue Jackets.

"This day and age, I think it's crazy…if the refs don't see it why the league couldn't call it," said Rask. "They're watching the game, right? What if that's in overtime? It didn't cost us, but I just think it's funny that they can look at a lot of other kind of goals and call them back in the offices, so why not that?

"I didn't see it hit the net. If I saw it then I probably would have slammed the stick and started chasing the refs. Probably better that I didn't see it."

Video: Rask speaks after Game 4 win

The missed call certainly gave Columbus a boost, as the Blue Jackets buzzed for the remainder of the first period and well into the second, leading to bevy of Grade A stops from Rask.

"He's been a great player for our group all playoffs," said Marchand. "He's given us a chance to win every game. He was big again tonight. When we needed him to make saves on the kill and when they were putting surges on he was big for us. He had a great game."

With Rask leading the charge, the Bruins eventually settled back in and locked things down in the third period. Sean Kuraly - quickly becoming a playoff hero - notched another critical insurance tally at 8:40 of the third, before Bergeron struck for his second power-play marker of the evening with 2:30 remaining.

"We always talk about getting the results," said Bergeron. "It's one thing to get a lot of chances and keep playing well. But you have to make sure you finish and those results in the playoffs need to be a part of it. I was glad we could do that today."

And so were the Bruins.

"They're popular guys and leaders," Cassidy said of his top dogs. "Guys feed off of it when they're going and their energy level, it just goes through the rest of the group. I assume most teams are like that. That's the way we're built and that's what happened tonight."

Video: Marchand speaks after Game 4 win

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