COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was the headliner after Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, but Boston counterpart Tuukka Rask insisted that was not a motivating factor two nights later.
“I don’t read headlines,” Rask joked after a 39-save performance that propelled the Bruins to a 4-1 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday at Nationwide Arena.
That evened the series at two heading into Saturday’s game at TD Garden. Rask shut down the Blue Jackets on four power plays and set the tone with a clutch stop on Boone Jenner’s penalty shot at 6:52 in the first period.
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How crucial was the save on the penalty shot?
“Huge because we score on the power play right after,” Boston center Patrice Bergeron said. “He’s been great for us throughout the playoffs and tonight has been no different.”
Bergeron’s goal less than 30 seconds after the stop gave the Bruins a two-goal cushion. Rask turned away each Columbus power play, including one sequence in the third period where the Blue Jackets fired five consecutive shots to no avail.
“I don’t think they got too many rebound opportunities in front of there,” Rask said. “That’s how they’ve been scoring. They were trying to play down low and push some pucks in there. I thought we protected the house well. That was the difference.”
Two also sets the game within the game with three games left in the series. Rask’s effort came two nights after Columbus coach John Tortorella said Bobrovsky “stood” on his head in a 2-1 victory against the Bruins. Rask has a .941 save percentage for the series, and Bobrovsky is not far behind at .938.
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“If teams find a way of winning games like this, playoff games where the teams are so evenly matched and there are surges both ways, then the goaltender has to be the best player,” Tortorella said after Game 3. “(Bobrovsky) has been.”
For the series, the numbers between the two are close:
Rask vs. Bobrovsky in Round 2
Both have surrendered three power play goals, and Bobrovsky has allowed one short-hand goal. The goaltenders will be the headliners, but Boston coach Bruce Cassidy is not banking on Rask alone in this best-of-three situation.
“Goalies get hot this time of year, Tuukka played great and we would love him to stay hot, but to rely on your goalie to win games for you is bad form in the long run,” Cassidy said. “It’s a team effort.”
The goaltenders realize that, too. Bobrovsky downplayed the thought of being “in a zone” after that Game 3, in which he finished with 36 saves and limited the Bruins to a goal that had to be reviewed before it was allowed.
“You don’t analyze stuff,” Bobrovsky said. “You don’t think. You don’t try to think what’s going on. You stay with the moment and stay one shift at a time. That’s it.”
Rask, in turn, didn’t over-analyze a Blue Jackets’ goal that should not have been allowed in Game 4. That lights-out play made the difference and gave Boston the home-ice advantage again.
“Every series is a goalie battle to a certain extent,” Rask said. “Sometimes there’s two overtime games, one-goal games, and that kind of becomes what people talk about more. That kind of situation.”
This that kind of situation. It’s the headline for Game 5.
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