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PREDATORS 2, BRUINS 1

Tuukka Rask exits early as Bruins fall to Predators

Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask exited the game in the first period after taking a slap shot to the right side of his mask, near the jaw and neck area. Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

NASHVILLE — Steady of foot, stern of face, Tuukka Rask briskly made his way to the team bus after the Bruins’ 2-1 loss to the Predators last night and briefly acknowledged a small clutch of Boston reporters on his way out of the building.

“I’ll be all right,” said the franchise goalie, sounding a tiny bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator.”

Hit by a steaming Roman Josi slap shot with 7:11 remaining in the first period, Rask had to be relieved by backup Zane McIntyre for the rest of the night.

As is their policy, the Bruins said little about the injury, other than coach Claude Julien noting that the goalie was hit “in the throat area” and would be evaluated further, likely as early as Friday when the Bruins are scheduled to practice at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton. It’s possible Rask suffered a concussion, or possibly a neck-throat-collarbone contusion. But that’s only guesswork, a dangerous yet standard game when dealing with the club’s ongoing lockdown on all medical information.

Without Rask, the Bruins continued to blitz the Predators, amassing a 36-19 shot advantage (74-35 in overall attempts), but only could crack rookie goalie Juuse Saros with a Torey Krug power-play blast midway through the second period.

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Otherwise, the popgun Preds prevailed on goals by Austin Watson and Filip Forsberg, connecting on 2 of only 13 shots they landed on McIntyre over his two-plus periods of relief.

In many senses, beyond the troubling loss of Rask (21-9-3 for the season) it was a Cliffs Notes version of many of Boston’s losses this season. The Bruins played well, but couldn’t execute the most important part of the exercise — putting the puck into the net.

“We’ve had too many of these,” said veteran winger David Backes, the prime offseason pickup. “We outplay teams and don’t get results. At some point, you have to put up points. We had a chance to finish up with a phenomenal road trip. Instead, we end up with just an OK one.”

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The Bruins ended their four-game road junket with a 2-1-1 record, banking 5 of a possible 8 points. After scoring 12 goals in visits to Florida, Carolina, and St. Louis, they once more had trouble lacing up their scoring boots.

On too many nights, noted Backes, the Bruins have made the opposing goalie look like a Vezina candidate. On Thursday night, it was Saros’s turn.

An injured Tuukka Rask is escorted off the ice.Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

“We are sick of moral victories,” added Krug, who drove home the Black and Gold’s only goal, a power-play slapper with 8:08 gone in the second that knotted it, 1-1. “This is one we should have had. At this point of the year, we are fighting for points.”

The Bruins began the evening in second place in the Atlantic Division, and still have hold of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But they need to bank points, or possibly suffer the consequence of Florida, Carolina, or Toronto — the Leafs with a whopping six games in hand — catching them with a strong second-half push.

The Preds were first to get on the board at 1:02 of the second, Watson cashing in a loose puck from point-blank range on McIntyre. The Bruins had just killed off a five-minute major penalty to Anton Blidh, and Watson popped out of a flurry in front to knock home the lead.

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The Bruins, finally showing some life on the power play of late, used the Krug strike on the man-advantage to pull even. Krug, at fault on the Nashville goal, picked off a clear attempt just inside the blue line and hammered a 50-foot slapper through a screen for his third goal this season. He also scored a PPG Tuesday night in a 5-3 win at St. Louis.

“It would feel a lot better if we’d won,” said Krug, noting that he hasn’t changed his game of late, but is seeing better scoring results. “I play my same game no matter what.”

Josi, felled by the hit from Blidh late in the first period, was finished for the night after the contact.

The Preds moved ahead again, 2-1, when Filip Forsberg dashed into the zone and collected a long dump-in pass by Ryan Ellis. It turned out to be the winning goal. The shifty Swede fought off Brandon Carlo, who was riding his back, and swept a 15-foot forehander through McIntyre’s 5-hole.

“I could have taken an extra step there,” said Carlo, explaining the footrace with Forsberg, “to get better positioning. But he got under my stick . . . I’ve got to be a little stronger in that situation.”

From there, the Bruins went on to outshoot the Preds, 15-4, over the remaining 22:24, but never could come up with the equalizer.

“Definitely deserved better,” said Julien. “I think if we keep playing that way, we’ll win more times than not. We played well, but just ran into a hot goaltender.’’

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They also potentially now have a hot mess with their own goaltender. Of their 22 wins this season, Rask has 21.

He left here sounding like the Terminator. If he’s down for an extended time, the Bruins could find their season terminated.


Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD.