Wild defeat the Bruins in a shootout, secure wildcard playoff spot
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Mikko Koivu scored for Minnesota and Ilya Bryzgalov denied all three Boston shots in the shootout, lifting the Wild to a 4-3 victory over the Bruins on Tuesday night that clinched a wild-card spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
Koivu, who had two assists, switched to his backhand to flip the puck past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask in the second round.
When 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.
With Bryzgalov pulled for the extra skater late in regulation, the Wild had the Bruins in brief disarray on the defensive end, and Ryan Suter knocked in the tying goal with 65 seconds remaining.
The Wild kept up the pressure, outshooting the Bruins 6-2 in overtime, but misfired on a couple of close-in chances and had to settle for the shootout.
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.
But the Wild went out and assured themselves of a top wild-card slot by rallying for the win.
Jason Pominville had two goals and an assist for the Wild, who only advanced past the first round in one of their previous four appearances, when they reached the Western Conference finals in 2003. With two games to go, they have 96 points.
Reilly Smith, Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson scored for the Bruins, who fell to 16-1-3 in their past 20 games.
Late in the middle 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.
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.
Pominville put the Wild in front a mere 65 seconds into the game on the first shot of the night with just 24 seconds elapsed on a power play, when his slap shot got through a crowd and into the upper right corner past Rask.
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 snagged a clearing attempt by Kyle Brodziak and sent in an unassisted power-play goal for his 20th score of the season.
Bergeron gave the Bruins the lead midway through that action-packed first period, and Pominville answered 28 seconds later with his team-leading 29th goal. Erik Haula won the faceoff, and Matt Moulson picked up the puck and snapped it across the crease to Pominville for the tap in.
Bryzgalov, who took over for Darcy Kuemper when the rookie suffered an upper-body injury, improved to 7-0-3 since joining the team at the trade deadline.
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.