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 on 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.”
Avalanche 3, Sharks 0
In Denver, 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 beat San Jose to tie the Western Conference semifinal series at two games apiece.
“Huge,” Grubauer said. “The longer we can keep the zero up there the better it is, and the better chance we have to win.”
MacKinnon now has at least a point in eight straight games. It’s the longest streak by a Colorado player in the postseason since Peter Forsberg had a point in eight straight in 2002.
Colin Wilson gave the Avalanche a two-goal cushion with a power-play goal early in the third period. Wilson’s score was set up by a 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.
“We needed to win this game and he was unreal,” Rantanen said.
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 goaltender Martin Jones and into the air. MacKinnon was on the spot, taking one whack at it and then another to send it past Jones (“just cleaned up garbage, nothing really,” he said). It was his sixth goal in this postseason.