Columbus, Ohio — Boston’s stars were going to be kept off the scoresheet in this playoff series for only so long.
David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand had combined for 260 points in the regular season, but had been neutralized by the Columbus Blue Jackets through the first three games of their Eastern Conference semifinal series. The only point among them was a goal by Pastrnak in Game 2 that was a deflection off his skate.
All three top-liners contributed Thursday night as the Bruins beat the Blue Jackets 4-1 to even their series at two games apiece. The best-of-seven set moves to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday.
Bergeron had two goals, Pastrnak had a goal and an assist and Marchand picked up a helper for the Bruins.
“If you break down the chances we’ve had game to game, we are getting five, six opportunities every game,” said Marchand, who also was whistled for three penalties in Game 4. “It’s only a matter of time before these guys score goals. You give them that many opportunities every game, they are going to score. They are that good. There is no panic.”
Sean Kuraly – who grew up in suburban Columbus – also scored, and Tuukka Rask stopped 39 shots.
“I don’t think they got too many rebound opportunities,” Rask said. “That’s how they’ve been scoring. They were trying to play down low, pushing more pucks in there but I thought we protected the house well, (I) saw every puck. That was huge.”
Artemi Panarin scored for Columbus on a blown call by the officials , and Sergei Bobrovsky, who has been spectacular in the postseason so far, had 41 saves but was beaten on long shots by Pastrnak and Bergeron in the first period.
“I don’t think any team wins without their best players being their best players,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We can survive for a while. So far in this series we had.”
Early in the first, Pastrnak was flattened by a huge hit from Columbus defenseman Adam Clendening. Around 25 seconds later, Pastrnak rifled a shot past Bobrovsky from the left circle to get the Bruins on the board.
Boston made it 2-0 on Bergeron’s snap shot from the slot at 7:18 of the first.
Columbus then got a gift. After the puck appeared to go into the netting and back onto the ice behind Boston’s goal, Panarin ended up with it and scored from close range. The Bruins protested, but the play was not subject to review because the scoring player, Panarin, wasn’t the first to possess the puck off the net.
“You play through it. That’s hockey,” shrugged Marchand. “A lot of calls are missed – that’s part of the game. That’s why they shouldn’t have the review on as much as they do. Play through that stuff.”
After a scoreless second, Kuraly put back a rebound off the end board 8:40 into the final period. Bergeron picked up his second goal off a rebound with 2½ minutes left in the game.
Columbus gave away six power plays and Boston scored on two of them.
“Their top guys score some goals on the power play, we gave them a chance to get going now by just sitting in that box too much,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “That’s the hard part of this game here tonight.”
Overall, Tortorella and Blue Jackets players are happy with how they are playing entering Game 5.
“It’s the series, man,” Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno said, “It’s 2-2, and this is what we thought it was going to be, so I’m not too concerned. We obviously need to tighten up in certain areas, make sure our (penalty) kill is a little bit better.”
(At) Colorado 3, San Jose 0: Nathan MacKinnon kept up his scoring spree with a second-period goal, Philipp Grubauer stopped 32 shots for his first career playoff shutout and the Avalanche evened the series at two games each.
MacKinnon has at least a point in eight straight games. It’s the longest streak by an Avalanche player in the postseason since Peter Forsberg had a point in eight straight in 2002.
Colin Wilson gave Colorado a two-goal cushion with a power-play goal early in the third period. Wilson’s score was set up by a no-look, between-the-legs pass from Mikko Rantanen, who registered two assists. Erik Johnson added an empty-netter with 1:09 remaining.
Game 5 is Saturday in San Jose.
The chants of “Gruuuu” by the crowd only grew louder with every save Grubauer made. He turned back nine shots in the final period.
In an attempt to bottle up the speedy MacKinnon, the Sharks kept rolling out their top defensive pair of Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. MacKinnon rarely had a moment when he wasn’t shadowed.
Still, he found ways to shake free, including in the second period when the puck bounced off the body of Martin Jones and into the air. MacKinnon was on the spot, taking one whack at it and then another to send it past Jones. It was his sixth goal in this postseason. He also has 13 points.
One of Grubauer’s top stops was near the end of the second period with Gustav Nyquist on the breakaway. Grubauer went into a full-out stretch in order to thwart Nyquist with his right pad.
Grubauer and the Avs defense found a way to corral Logan Couture, the leading goal scorer in the postseason who was coming off a hat trick in Game 3.
This may be an encouraging development for the Sharks: Captain Joe Pavelski returned to skating. He was on the ice in San Jose on Wednesday, with coach Peter DeBoer hearing “positive things” from the session.
Pavelski was hurt in Game 7 of the Vegas series when his helmet slammed to the ice. He’s yet to play in this series.
And while he’s has been on the minds of his teammates, DeBoer didn’t buy into the notion that Pavelski could be a rallying force for his team.
“This isn’t a ‘Rudy’ story,” DeBoer said.