By Craig Schroepfer, WCCO Radio
The Minnesota Wild went into Tuesday night knowing they would only need one more point to clinch a playoff berth in the Western Conference.
The task would not come easy as the Boston Bruins, the defending Eastern Conference champions, were in town. Fortunately for the Wild, their play-off berth was solidified before the start of the third period.
The Phoenix Coyotes lost their game in overtime to the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-3. Because of the loss, Phoenix was only able to get one out of a possible two points and could no longer catch Minnesota in the standings.
As a result, the Wild will be in the playoffs for the second year in a row, and they’re locked into the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference. With their play-off fate already determined, the Wild still had some business to take care off as they trailed Boston 3-2 going into the third period.
It wasn’t until 1:05 left to play in the game when Minnesota tied it up, when Ryan Suter took a pass from Jason Pominville and fired it on goal. The puck somehow found its way past many Bruins and Wild players, eluding Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask to find the back of the net and tie the game 3-3.
After a five-minute scoreless overtime, the game went to a shootout which Minnesota won 1-0, giving them a 4-3 victory over the Bruins and two more points on the season, bringing their total to 96.
After the game, you could tell there was a sense of relief that a play-off berth was clinched.
“That’s what you play for and that’s where you want to be,” said forward Jason Pominville. “It was a grind and battle throughout the year. We had many ups and downs but stayed even-keeled. We put a lot of work into it and deserve to be where we are.”
Head Coach Mike Yeo made sure his team knew what was at stake going into the game, and how important it was to go and clinch a spot in the playoffs instead of waiting to see how things played out.
This was something that wasn’t lost on forward Zach Parise.
“We talked about it before the game and we knew the scenario,” Parise said. “You don’t want to back in, you want to win your way in and to do it against a really good team. It feels good to get in.”
Minnesota has two games left in the season. With being locked into the first wild card spot, all they can do is wait and see how everything plays out before finding out who their opponent is in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As of right now, it looks like the Wild will most likely play the Pacific Division champion: either the Anaheim Ducks or the San Jose Sharks. There is a chance though that Minnesota’s first-round opponent could be the Central Division champion: either the Colorado Avalanche or the St. Louis Blues.
And wouldn’t you know it – the Blues are next on the schedule to play the Wild. We could have a possible play-off preview at Xcel on Thursday night.