COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Bruins' three-game road trip ended about as poorly as possible on Tuesday night, as they dropped the finale against the Blue Jackets, 3-0, for their first shutout of the season. But Boston lost more than their second straight game when No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask was forced to leave just over a minute into the contest.
Rask took an elbow to the head from Columbus' Emil Bemstrom as the forward tried to escape Brandon Carlo across the top of the crease at 1:12 of the first. The netminder was down on the ice for a moment before retreating to the dressing room with the help of Bruins trainer Don DelNegro. He did not return.
"He's concussed. He got elbowed in the head," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "He'll probably go into the protocol - at least that's what I was told. Maybe it's not as bad as they first thought. I guess we'll have a better evaluation [on Tuesday]. That's what I was originally told. Maybe when he gets home and he feels better, maybe they jumped the gun a little bit."
There was no penalty called on the play with Carlo saying the referee told him that it was an accidental stick that caught Rask up high.
"Didn't really realize it right away," said Carlo. "After [Rask] went down, I was kind of asking the ref what happened and he said that it was an accident, it was a stick to the face. That's what he saw. I don't know if the guys were really aware of that at the time. But after the first period, we obviously saw it.
"I barely even shoved him at all. It wasn't a strong play by me by any means. I was just trying to clear the front of the net lightly, not even too assertively. He did get his arm up a little there. Unfortunately, we didn't recognize that sooner."
Video: Cassidy, Carlo, Coyle and Heinen react to loss
While there was not an initial response from the Bruins given the uncertainty of what happened on the play, Boston attempted to get Bemstrom to answer with Carlo and Torey Krug both giving the 20-year-old some shots behind the play early in the second period. Bemstrom would not oblige.
"I don't think you're gonna necessarily take yourself out of the play," said Carlo. "You try to get a little more assertive with him and see what happens from there, but ultimately in that situation, a 1-0 game, it's not really the time to just jump him and take a penalty.
"You try to antagonize him as much as you can until he makes his decision on if he wants to fight or not. Tonight, that wasn't the case."
Later in the middle frame, Joakim Nordstrom encountered Bemstrom, again attempting an answer for the elbow. A scrum ensued in front of the Bruins bench with Nordstrom (unsportsmanlike conduct) and Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois (roughing) receiving the penalties.
"I don't know if anybody saw it [initially]," Cassidy said of the elbow. "Brandon's kind of bumping with him on his pants, but certainly didn't affect his elbow. Should our guys have had a better response? I think there could have been, yeah. But I don't know if they saw it in real time.
"It was pointed out after the first period that our goaltender got bumped. Listen, it's a little bit late then. You can't take the law into your own hands. You can certainly address it with the player on the ice if you felt it was inappropriate. I think some of our guys did that. But we had to get back to playing."
Video: BOS Recap: Bruins shut out by Blue Jackets
With Rask injured, Jaroslav Halak was ushered into action to make his second straight appearance. Cassidy believed that Halak held his own given the circumstances, while lamenting his club's inability to strike on the power play (they went 0 for 4), which ended a franchise-best streak of 14 straight games with a goal on the man advantage.
"I didn't like the first goal, but I didn't like the way we defended it," Cassidy said of Alexander Wennberg's opening tally with 6:33 left in the first. "Two defensemen, we got beat 1-on-1. Something you've got to be able to do is play your 1-on-1s. A puck that beat him on the ice through the legs. He's gonna tell you right now that it's not a good goal.
"After that, I thought he kept us in it. It's 1-0 game. We had plenty of opportunities. Couldn't execute on the power play, something we typically do very well. We needed it tonight because 5-on-5 we weren't able to get anything past [Columbus rookie goalie Elvis Merzlikens].
"Had some good looks in the second, but….at the end of the day, Jaro did his job, we just didn't get any offense."
At even strength, the Bruins also struggled to cash in on their opportunities as Merzlikens (34 saves) secured his second consecutive shutout. The Blue Jackets went on to put up two goals in the third period with Kevin Stenlund (5:46 of the third) and old friend Riley Nash (13:05) beating Halak.
"There were things we can do better. We had chances," said Charlie Coyle. "The goalie made some big saves on the other end, a couple rebounds that we're sitting there. Just didn't go in for us."