Things got weird early in Columbus and emerging from the chaos was some much-needed production from Boston’s top line and a strong 39-save performance from Tuukka Rask.
After seeing Sergei Bobrovksy outperform Rask along with the Bruins’ top scorers being silenced for much of the start of the series, Boston’s stars stole the show to snag a 4–1 victory in Game 4 and tie the series at two games apiece.
The Big 3 made things happen early, when David Pastrnak took a hit from Adam Clendening and stayed on the ice to finish his shift, which he capped with a one-timer to give the Bruins a 1–0 lead. Patrice Bergeron doubled the lead a few minutes later on the power play, but then things quickly turned strange.
After the puck appeared to go into the netting and drop down onto the ice, the Blue Jackets jumped on it and Artemi Panarin scored as several Bruins players stood idle despite a whistle never coming to blow the play dead. The play was not reviewable because the goal scorer (Panarin) wasn’t the first to touch the puck after coming down from the net.
The Bruins continued to keep things strange. Although Bergeron scored twice on the power play, the most memorable thing about Boston’s man advantage in Game 4 was the number of odd-man rushes the Blue Jackets saw, particularly Boone Jenner. The Columbus center was granted a penalty shot in the first period when Brad Marchand tripped him up and had several other scoring chances on the penalty kill, but he couldn’t convert on any of the shorthanded chances with Rask playing his best game of the series. The Blue Jackets controlled most of the middle frame, but Rask kept Boston in it, rarely giving up rebounds for Columbus to pounce on.
In the spirit of the series, Game 4 saw another controversial hit in the first period. David Backes, who had just returned to the lineup, was elbowed in the jaw by Dean Kukan and down to the ice for a few moments. Backes went to locker room but was back on the bench before the end of the first period.
The Bruins came out on top in a must-win situation, but will still want to tighten up back in Boston. Despite finally stepping up and reigniting the Bruins offense, the top line still seems to have a few issues plaguing it. After not taking any penalties in Boston’s seven games in Round 1, Marchand found himself in the box twice on Thursday in addition to being the culprit on Jenner’s penalty shot. Additionally, Pastrnak made a few questionable puck-handling decisions that might make some wonder if his thumb surgery in February might be troubling him as the postseason goes on.
The wild night came to a close with the Bruins regaining control in the third period, but Columbus proved early on that it knows what it needs to do to grind out wins. Both sides will want to make fixes to gain control of what is now a best-of-three series.