ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Wild found out during the second intermission their spot in the playoffs was secure.
Satisfaction came only after they won their way in with a strong finish.
Mikko Koivu had the only score in the shootout after Ryan Suter’s goal tied the game with 65 seconds remaining in regulation, and the Wild beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Tuesday night to clinch a wild-card spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
“We wanted to get in the right way,” said right wing Jason Pominville, who had two goals and an assist. “We stuck to it and found a way to score one late, and I think it’s a sign of a good team when you get in the right way against the best team in the NHL right now.”
Koivu, who had two assists, switched to his backhand to flip the puck past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask in the second round.
When goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stopped Brad Marchand’s try with his pad to end it, he pumped his arms as he skated out of the crease to celebrate with his teammates.
The Wild will be the seventh seed and face the division winner with the fewest points.
“The message was, ‘Let’s not wait for anything. Let’s not back our way into anything. Let’s not come through the back door. Let’s go charging through the front door,'” coach Mike Yeo said. “And what a better way to do it against a team like Boston.”
As play was about to begin for the third period, the overtime loss by ninth-place Phoenix at Columbus that guaranteed a place in the postseason for Minnesota was announced to the crowd and received with a hearty cheer.
The Wild then went a step further by assuring themselves of the top wild-card slot by rallying for the win. They kept up the pressure in overtime after Suter’s delivery, outshooting the Bruins 6-2 in overtime.
Reilly Smith, Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson scored for the Bruins, who fell to 16-1-3 in their past 20 games.
The Bruins, who clinched the No. 1 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs, held leading scorer Jarome Iginla out for the third time in the past four games because of a lower-body injury. Iginla became the biggest threat to the Wild during his days with then-division rival Calgary. His 67 points, including 37 goals, in 71 career games are the most by any Minnesota opponent.
“Try to get some rest for certain guys and still try to play good hockey,” Rask said. “There’s still something to play for. But it’s not always easy to find that 100 percent perfect game in these situations.”
Late in the second period, Zdeno Chara wound up from the point on a power play. Eriksson and Gregory Campbell were parked just outside the crease, and the puck appeared to deflect first off Campbell’s stick before Eriksson poked it in for the lead with 3:42 left before the break.
That didn’t mean they were playing their best, though.
“I felt we were a little sloppy tonight. We weren’t very sharp in our passing and our playmaking,” coach Claude Julien said. “We didn’t have everybody really playing that well. Some of our big players were just very average.”
Bryzgalov, the latest unlikely leader to emerge for the Wild, made 44 saves over the past two games to blank Pittsburgh and Winnipeg and put Minnesota on the brink of the postseason. His shutout streak ended at 145 minutes and 15 seconds, when Smith sent in an unassisted power-play goal for his 20th score this season.
But Bryzgalov, who took over for Darcy Kuemper when the rookie suffered an upper-body injury last month, improved to 7-0-3 since arriving at the trade deadline.
“The quicker you can clinch, the better it is,” an impressed Julien said.
Last season, the Wild limped to the No. 8 seed by winning their final game to finish 5-8-1 in April. This time, they’ll have more momentum.
“We played ourselves into the playoffs the way that you want to. It says a lot about the guys in here, and hopefully we can keep this thing going here,” Suter said.
NOTES: Wild goalie Josh Harding, the winner of the NHL’s Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy last year for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport, was announced Tuesday as the team’s repeat nominee for the award. Harding has been on injured reserve since Jan. 2, continuing to deal with multiple sclerosis, but returned to practice with the Wild last Wednesday. … Bergeron has 10 goals in his past 11 games.
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