Boston goalie Tuukka Rask stopped 39 of 40 shots Thursday night in Columbus as the Bruins evened their playoff series with the Blue Jackets at two games apiece. Associated Press/Paul Vernon

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Boston Bruins gave the Columbus Blue Jackets the response they desperately needed in Game 4.

The Bruins evened the series 2-2 to regain home-ice advantage heading into Saturday night’s game at TD Garden – because their top players rose to the occasion. David Pastrnak scored a David Pastrnak-type goal. Patrice Bergeron finally got the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky, not once but twice. Brad Marchand snapped his four-game pointless streak.

But no one stood taller in this pivotal game than Tuukka Rask.

The oft-maligned netminder delivered the performance the Bruins absolutely had to have to keep from being pushed to the brink of elimination. Rask stopped 39 of 40 shots – including a first-period penalty shot – and the only one that got by him never should have counted.

The talk of this series has been almost all about Bobrovsky, but Thursday night Rask reminded the hockey world there are two elite goalies in this series.

“Tuukka was outstanding,” Boston Coach Bruce Cassidy said. “I thought he fought hard to compete on second chances tonight, especially on that power play in the third period. I thought there were a lot of second chances and they scored some goals like that (the winners in Games 2 and 3), and we’ve got to do a better job in front of him, obviously with clears, but I think he really competed hard to find pucks. He made some good saves on the odd-man rushes on the angles, and then obviously, the penalty shot. It was a big turning point in the game.”

Pastrnak gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead on a one-timer, and then the Bruins were given the first power play of the game. On the kill, Boone Jenner took off on a partial break – a recurring theme for the Bruins’ power play all night – and he was awarded a penalty shot when he was tripped by Marchand. Rask calmly blockered away Jenner’s shot, and Bergeron scored 26 seconds later.

But there would be more drama to come. Given a 2-0 lead, Rask had made a fairly routine save that clearly went into the netting over the glass and out of play. The play should have been whistled dead, but it was simply missed by the officiating crew.

According to the play-by-play, Artemi Panarin scored four seconds later against a Bruins team that looked fairly bewildered. Rask said he didn’t know the puck had hit the mesh.

“If I saw it, I probably would have slammed the sticks and chased the refs,” said Rask, able to laugh it off after the game.

According to the bizarre vagaries of the NHL rulebook, it was not a reviewable play. Rule 38.4 says it is only reviewable if the puck goes directly into the goal off the netting, or if the player who retrieves it off the netting scores the goal. Go figure.

“This day and age, I think it’s crazy,” Rask said. “If the refs don’t see it, I don’t know why the league can’t call it. They’re watching the game, right? What if that’s an overtime goal. It didn’t cost us, but I think it’s funny that they can look at a lot of other goals and call them back from the offices, so why not that?”

It was a one-goal game until Sean Kuraly extended the lead to 3-1 at 8:40 of the third. Rask made a lot of huge saves between the Panarin goal and the Kuraly tally.

There were other questionable calls and noncalls. Jenner was awarded his penalty shot on a short-handed bid when it didn’t appear he had gained any separation on Marchand. And Blue Jackets defenseman Dean Kukan could have been given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his elbow to David Backes’ jaw instead of the two-minute minor he did get, though with the way the Bruins were giving up short-handed breaks, it might have been just as well for them.

But none of that mattered, mainly because Rask wouldn’t let it. Asked if he thought the illegitimate goal against serves as motivation, Jake DeBrusk said he would not have been surprised if it did, though Rask was excellent even before that crazy moment.

“The penalty shot was a huge moment for our team. It’s one of those things where it’s a (potentially) 1-1 game and it gets the crowd right into it and we’re scrambling, possibly. Things can just snowball from there and he shut the door on that – and one of their hottest players as well,” DeBrusk said. “Then he made a few more Grade A’s. Tuukka’s so calm and collected, but he does have a little bit of a mean streak and he does get mad. It’s very rare. But when he does, get out of his way. I don’t know if that happened or not, but I do know that he won us this game tonight.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.