COLUMBUS — Maybe it was the cannon.
Following the third concussive blast, each one pounding after every Columbus first-period goal, the Bruins looked as if they were ready to play hockey. They competed. They won races. They smothered the Blue Jackets.
But 10 minutes of no-show play and three gimmes to the best team in the league does not lead to results. As efficiently as the Bruins played for the final 50 minutes, they could not overcome a three-goal deficit or a leaky winning goal, which Nick Foligno scored on the power play at 10:46 of the third to give Columbus a 4-3 decision.
The Blue Jackets have reeled off 13 straight wins. The feat did not have John Tortorella raining confetti on his players.
“Didn’t do squat five-on-five,” said the Columbus coach.
The Bruins led in five-on-five shots on net, 33-18. A revived David Krejci hammered the Columbus net with eight pucks, including one that slipped past Sergei Bobrovsky. Linemates David Backes and Ryan Spooner added four shots apiece.
None of it mattered.
“We didn’t give them much,” said coach Claude Julien. “We didn’t give them many shots. But at the end of the night, you lose a hockey game. So you can’t be happy with that.”
It was not the best night for Tuukka Rask. Before Columbus’s first goal, Rask thought the puck had left the zone before Lucas Sedlak pulled it back and fired it on net. So when Scott Hartnell, slow to exit the zone after taking a wallop from Dominic Moore, was stationed in front of the net to whack at the puck, Rask thought the play was dead. Instead, at 3:02, the Jackets had grabbed a 1-0 lead.
“That first goal, I heard a whistle there and I quit on the rebound because I thought it was an offside,” Rask said. “That’s on me. That obviously shouldn’t happen.”
In the third, even though Columbus was on the power play, Rask thought he had sealed off the strong-side post when Foligno pulled the puck toward the net. His lead pad was flush to the ice. Rask dropped his glove down to cover the opening above his pad. He leaned his left shoulder into the post. But somehow, after stopping Foligno’s first shot, Rask felt the puck roll over his left skate and into the net for the winner.
“The seal I chose to do there, I had it and the puck just goes through,” Rask said. “I think it just went over my skate there. Little gap there, so I’ve got to look at that. Frustrating the winning goal’s like that. But it happens.”
Rask, however, had little help from his teammates in blunting Columbus’s first-period flurry. The Bruins killed off a Brandon Carlo holding penalty. But 11 seconds after Carlo left the box, the Bruins remained caught in their zone. Seth Jones stepped into a Scott Hartnell pass and hammered a short-range one-timer over Rask’s right shoulder at 8:48.
Less than a minute later, while the Bruins tried to clear the zone, the puck clanged off Spooner and back into Columbus’s possession. Rask stopped Matt Calvert’s first shot. But nobody cleared the rebound and Calvert drained his second attempt at 9:39, giving Columbus a 3-0 lead and setting off another howitzer from the Nationwide Arena cannon.
“For some reason, we were playing at the end of our sticks,” Julien said. “We weren’t engaged in the game physically. It’s almost like once they got that jolt, it kind of got them going. Once we started playing the game, we realized how good we could be against this hockey club.”
The second line started the rally. After strong wall work by Spooner and Krejci, Backes received his center’s dish and snapped a steamer over Bobrovsky at 11:05 of the first. Fifty-five seconds later, Austin Czarnik shoveled in a short-range shot, making it a 3-2 game.
The No. 2 line tied the game at 18:26 of the second. Backes gained the zone with speed and dropped a pass to Spooner. Bobrovsky stopped Spooner’s shot, but Krejci put in the rebound, tying the game at 3-3.
Outside of the first 10 minutes, all three second-line forwards skated well. The break looked like it made the biggest difference for Krejci and Backes, who have appeared heavy-legged at times.
“David was really good to start with,” Julien said of Krejci. “I thought David was skating well to make things happen. I thought David Backes also seemed to have some good jump tonight. Spoons, after that first 10 minutes, where I thought he wasn’t there, he started playing. When he started playing, that line became a real good line for us.”
But while the Jackets’ league-leading power play punched through, the Bruins didn’t produce on theirs. The Bruins went 0 for 3, including twice in the third following penalties to Cam Atkinson and Jones. Columbus has converted 27.1 percent of its man-advantage opportunities. The Bruins have scored on only 13.5 percent of theirs. It’s one reason the Bruins limped out of Columbus with no points.