COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Bruins will be happy to get to the All-Star break, and that goes double for their No. 1 netminder.
Walking away with nothing despite a solid effort Tuesday night, the Bruins couldn’t overcome the early loss of Tuukka Rask and were blanked, 3-0, by the host Blue Jackets. The Bruins dropped to 27-9-12, losing in regulation for the second time in four weeks.
Rask was downed by a blindside punch to the head from Columbus rookie Emil Bemstrom, and he was ruled out the rest of the night. Bemstrom caught an unsuspecting Rask with a gloved fist as he strode diagonally through the crease from behind the Bruins’ net.
After the game, coach Bruce Cassidy said Rask was concussed.
The punch, which was not penalized, rattled Rask’s mask and dropped the 32-year-old All-Star to the ice. Prone for several long moments and slow to get up, Rask left for the locker room under his own power. Jaroslav Halak replaced him.
Other observations from the loss:
■ Visiting Nationwide Arena for the first time since winning a berth in last season’s Eastern Conference final, the Bruins were shut out for the first time since Dec. 4, 2018, at Florida.
Tuesday didn’t have the same flavor as that distasteful effort, considering the Bruins played well for their third road game in four nights, on a back-to-back with travel. But they couldn’t beat Blue Jackets netminder Elvis Merzlikins, who posted his second clean sheet in a row with 34 saves.
■ Halak (24 saves) allowed a pair of softies among his three, including ex-Bruin Riley Nash’s fourth of the season at 13:05 of the third. He also gave up a five-hole goal to Alexander Wennberg 13:27 in.
■ Rask announced Monday that instead of participating during All-Star Weekend, he would rest. That may be the prescription anyway.
Bemstrom’s punch arrived nearly a year after Rask’s last known concussion. On Jan. 19, in his final start before the All-Star break, Rask was bowled over by crease-crashing Rangers forward Filip Chytil. Rask recovered during the nine-day layoff, and did not miss a start.
Rask, who earned his second All-Star selection before saying he wanted some R&R, ranks fourth in save percentage (.925) and goals against average (2.27) among goalies with 20 or more starts. He is 17-4-6.
■ Bemstrom, 20 years old and skating on Columbus’s second line with Sonny Milano and Pierre-Luc Dubois, was not immediately challenged to answer for his actions. The Bruins must have seen a replay during the first intermission. Early in the period, Bemstrom drew shoves and stickwork from Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Brandon Carlo, and Torey Krug, among others. After a scrum at 12:35, Joakim Nordstrom was sent off for unsportsmanlike conduct — along with Dubois (roughing), who came to his teammate’s defense.
Coming in cold, Halak stopped the first five shots he saw, but his struggles continued. On the rush at 13:27, Wennberg snuck a slot shot through Halak’s five-hole. Halak, who gave up five goals on 39 shots the previous night in Philadelphia, made 21 saves through 40 minutes.
■ The Bruins looked sluggish at first. They were slow on the backcheck on the first goal, allowing a 1 on 1 to become a 3 on 1. They woke up in the second, registering 14 of their 21 shots and forcing Merzlikins to make several tough saves. They outshot the Blue Jackets, 12-2, toward the end of the second period.
■ The power play went 0 for 2 through 40 minutes, registering several excellent chances. One of the best: Brad Marchand found Danton Heinen with a deflection play at the post, but Heinen tipped it too high. Heinen had a strong two periods, putting three shots on goal and driving offense.
■ With an 0-for-4 performance on the power play, the Bruins’ club-record streak of games with a PPG ended at 14.