Bruins topple Minnesota
BOSTON — It wasn’t too long ago that people were asking the Boston Bruins about their chances of catching the Pittsburgh Penguins for the lead in the Eastern Conference standings.
Now, the question turns to No. 1 overall.
“It feels good; but we’re really trying to stay focused on our game and what we’re trying to improve on,” right winger Jarome Iginla said after his two goals helped the Bruins to their ninth straight win, a 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Monday night.
The victory, their first ever over the Wild at TD Garden, moved the Bruins five points ahead of the idle Pittsburgh Penguins atop the Eastern Conference and also brought Boston into a three-way tie for No. 2 in the overall league standings.
“You try to win every game and if you have a chance to clinch the league why wouldn’t you try?” said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who had 33 saves in his sixth straight victory. “I don’t think it’s our goal, that we have to win it. We just want to be feeling good about ourselves going into the playoffs and playing our best hockey in April, May and June.”
The Bruins tied the idle Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks — all three trailing the St. Louis Blues by four points.
In addition to Iginla, fellow right wingers Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith also scored for the Bruins. Iginla, playing in his 1,300th NHL game, had his team-leading 24th and 25th of the season, his fourth and fifth in the last three games. His empty netter gave him 25 goals for the 14th straight full NHL season.
And he knew before this game started that the Wild had never lost in Boston.
“Yeah, one of the guys brought it up — Looch (Milan Lucic) — Looch knows all the stats and he brought it up actually before the game, so we did know that,” Iginla said.
Rask yielded only a goal to right winger Jason Pominville, his 26th, late in the second period, Pominville breaking his stick on the shot and raising only the shaft when he scored.
Sixteen of Rask’s 33 saves came in the third period.
The Bruins, 12-1-2 in their last 15 and 17-2-3 in their last 22, have outscored their nine victims 36-13 and have allowed one goal in each of the last four games.
Rask has given up nine goals during his personal winning streak. His best save of the night came off fellow Finn and center Mikko Koivu, who clearly said something to his countryman after the save.
“He was very good,” Koivu said. “We knew that going into the game and he was as good as people say he is. And yeah, he made some great saves.”
The winning streak is the longest for the Bruins since a 10-gamer Nov. 1-23, 2011.
The Wild, 1-2-3 in their last six games, came in 6-0 lifetime in Boston and 10-1-1 against the Bruins overall.
“They’re a very solid team,” said Wild center Kyle Brodziak, who had six shots on goal in the game. “Structurally, they play extremely well, and obviously they have a lot of talent and a lot of size. Yeah, that’s a really good hockey team.”
Minnesota rookie Darcy Kuemper made 25 saves and was a victim of a weird deflected shot on the Iginla goal.
Iginla, who also has six goals in five games, has 26 points, including 11 goals, in the last 19 games. He had the only points for his sizzling line — center David Krejci and left winger Lucic failed to get a point — and the line has 49 points in the last 15 games.
Defenseman/captain Zdeno Chara, who turns 37 on Tuesday, had two assists for Boston.
NOTES: The Bruins, who have failed on all 36 lifetime power plays against Minnesota, didn’t have one Monday, while Boston killed the only power play of the game and has killed its last 20 over eight games. ... Bruins D Johnny Boychuk, who suffered a lower-body injury late in Saturday’s game, was out and is day-to-day. ... Wild RW Justin Fontaine returned to the lineup after five games as a healthy scratch. ... The Wild visit the New York Islanders on Tuesday night, the second stop on a three-game trip, while the Bruins, 8-0-3 in their last 11 road games, are at New Jersey to start a three-game road trip. ... The Wild and Bruins meet again April 8 in St. Paul. ... Bruins RW Jarome Iginla is the fifth active player to hit 1,300 games, the 55th all time. ... In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the Bruins wore green jerseys in warmups. ... Wild C Charlie Coyle, a local product who played at Boston University, had an estimated 1,000-2,000 people at the game watching him. He almost scored about 10 seconds into the game and was named the third star.