The Boston Bruins faced off against the Nashville Predators in the game four of a four-game road trip hoping to finish it on a winning note but left Music City on the short end of the scoreboard 2-1 in a game that resembled a playoff contest due to its intensity.
Austin Watson and Filip Forsberg scored the goals for Nashville while rookie goaltender Jusse Saros stopped 35 Bruins’ shots to backstop his club’s win.
“I think we deserved better,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the game. “I think our guys competed hard and (I) definitely thought we played well enough to win this hockey game and you know, (we) ran into a hot goaltender (Saros). Their goaltender was outstanding tonight. We couldn’t seem to get that next goal past him.”
The first period saw no goal scoring but it was full of heavy hits and goaltending highlights although the only thing people may remember about the period will be the shot heard throughout the hockey world when Bruins netminder, Tuukka Rask, took a shot off the stick of Roman Josi to the right side of his mask at the 12:49 mark of the period. He remained on all fours and immediately removed the mask. After being attended to by trainer Don Del Negro, Rask left the ice under his own power and went directly to the dressing room. Backup netminder Zane McIntyre took over for Rask for the remainder of the game.
Following the game, Julien appeared on the New England Sports Network to give an update on Rask’s condition.
“He (Rask) got the shot in the throat area and obviously wasn’t well enough to come back so we’ll evaluate him and as we move forward hope that it’s not as serious as everybody might think it is,” said Julien.
A second incident that may or may not draw the attention of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety occurred when first-year Bruins forward Anton Blidh sent Josi crashing into the end boards with a late hit. Originally, it appeared that the hit, itself, had injured Josi but replays showed it was Josi’s stick that may have caused an undisclosed injury to the defenseman when it came up upon contact hitting him in his face. For the hit, Blidh was assessed a five-minute major penalty which Boston successfully killed allowing just one shot on goal.
Boston put 10 shots on Predators goaltender Saros in the first period but the 21-year-old native of Finland turned each one aside while the Bruins goaltending tandem of Rask and McIntyre stopped all six Nashville shots.
The Bruins were controlling the play for much of the game but gave up the contest’s first goal when Austin Watson scored his fourth goal of the season. The Preds were putting on a heavy push in the Boston zone. McIntyre watched a point shot sail wide to his left. The puck rebounded off the end boards directly in front of the Boston goal where Bruins defenseman Torey Krug gathered it and attempted to move it to the right of the net but Watson intercepted Krug’s attempt on McIntyre’s doorstep and put a wrist shot through the goaltender’s feet giving Nashville a 1-0 lead only 1:02 into the period.
The heavy-hitting continued and tempers flared at the 4:59 mark of the period when Boston’s Adam McQuaid and Nashville’s Derek Grant dropped the gloves and engaged in what Ring Magazine would surely call a Fight of the Year. Both combatants threw some haymakers but McQuaid ended the bout with an uppercut that dropped Grant and sent him to the dressing room for repairs.
The fast-paced action continued until the Predators’ Ryan Johansen was penalized for hooking at 6:20 of the period putting the Bruins on the power play. Boston cashed in on the man-advantage. Torey Krug, stationed at the Nashville blue line, knocked down Viktor Arviddson’s clearing attempt and put a slap shot past Saros’ glove hand knotting the score at 1-1. The goal was the third of the year for Krug and his 12th point in his last 11 games.
The teams would remain tied until 17:36 of the second period. Boston’s Brandon Carlo and Nashville’s Forsberg were locked in a race for a loose puck that had been dumped into the Bruins’ zone by the Predators Ryan Ellis, Forsberg out-muscled Carlo and kicked the disc onto his stick then sent a wrist shot between McIntyre’s pads for his 10th goal of the season putting Nashville in the lead, 2-1. Mattias Ekholm drew the secondary assist by passing the puck to Ellis.
Despite Boston holding a 23-15 shot advantage, they trailed by that 2-1 score after 40 minutes.
The third period saw more action that had fans wishing they could see the two teams meet more than twice this season. Boston outshot Nashville in the period, 13-4 but Saros preserved the win by stopping all of the Bruins shots.
Boston held the edge in shots on goal for the game 36-19 and deserved a better fate but it was not to be on this night in Tennessee.
Krug, speaking to the media after the game, expressed how the team has moved past looking for positives when they lose games and wants to see their efforts be rewarded with wins.
“At this point in the season, we’re kind of sick of moral victories and we want to get results and I think it’s one (win) we should have had (tonight),” Krug said.
The Bruins, who went 2-1-1 on the road trip, return home to TD Garden Saturday afternoon to faceoff against Eastern Conference rival Philadelphia Flyers (1:00 pm ET; NHLN, SN, CSN-PH, NESN, NHL.TV).
Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.