The dignity and difficulty in succeeding in the Stanley Cup playoffs were in full bloom for the Boston Bruins on Thursday.
David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron scored early in Game 4 to give the Bruins a two-goal lead in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. But then Artemi Panarin scored to pull his Columbus teammates to within a goal because he took advantage of an undetected shot that bounced off the netting high about the Bruins goal.
The Bruins, however, stuck with it. They won faceoff after faceoff. They hunkered down defensively and limited their opponents enough to skate away with an important 4-1 victory at the Nationwide Arena.
The Boston win not only hung to knot the second-round series at 2-2, the victory returned the home-ice advantage back to the Bruins. All of sudden, what appeared to be an arduous climb back up the mountain for Boston against a determined and physical bunch in the Blue Jackets is once again a wide-open outcome.
WATCH | Bergeron leads Bruins to series-tying win over Blue Jackets:
You just can’t count out this group of Bruins. Just when you think they’ve reached the end of their rope — after Brad Marchand’s unnecessary punch to the back of the head of Columbus defenceman Scott Harrington in the late-going of Game 3 on Tuesday — Boston hunkered down and played its game.
If you watched the Bruins in the first round, how they dismantled an optimistic Toronto Maple Leafs after the Bruins fell behind 3-2 in their first-round series only to bounce back with a couple of impressive outings to take down Toronto, you may have seen similarities in Boston’s win in Game 4.
WATCH | Netting to see here, ref:
They slowed the game down to their pace and frustrated the young and restless Blue Jackets.
The Bruins also won the special teams battle. Bergeron checked in with power-play goals in the first and third periods and the penalty-killing unit made sure Columbus didn’t score in any of its four man-advantage situations.
Boston also received a necessary contribution from its fourth line. With the outcome still in doubt early in the final period Bruins forward Sean Kuraly pounced on a loose puck that bounded off Columbus defenceman David Savard to put the Bruins ahead 3-1.
The Blue Jackets, who swept the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Tampa Bay Lightning, had plenty of time to study the Bruins and how they finished off the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the opening round.
Boston is an experienced club that performs its best when its backs are against the wall. The Blue Jackets had a chance to snatch a stranglehold on their second-round series at home, where they had won their first three games of this playoffs.
But just like Toronto stumbled after leading 3-2 in its series with the possible-series-clinching game at home so did Columbus.
The 33-year-old Bergeron was terrific. So was 32-year-old goalie Tuukka Rask. He was the backup when the Bruins won the 2010-11 Stanley Cup and he was Boston’s No. 1 when the Chicago Blackhawks stole the league championship from the Bruins in 2013.
Rask wants a league title for his own. He certainly demonstrated as much in Game 4 with his 24-save victory.
The Bruins know that if they want to carry on and defeat the upset-minded Blue Jackets that key performers like Rask and Bergeron have to continue to be key performers if the Bruins dignity will continue to lead to playoff success this spring.