The NHL playoffs begin a week from Wednesday, not soon enough for the Bruins who try to balance rest while also fielding a competitive team that can capture only the second Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history.
Boston (53-18-8) blew a 3-2 lead late in the third period as Minnesota’s (42-26-12) Ryan Suter tied it with the extra attacker on. From there, the Wild dominated in overtime (outshooting Boston 6-2) but had to win it in a shootout, 4-3, at Xcel Energy Center thanks to Mikko Koivu’s goal. Minnesota had already clinched the seventh spot in the Western Conference earlier on Tuesday thanks to Phoenix’s overtime loss to Columbus.
The game got off to a fast start as Jason Pominville scored a power-play goal at 1:05 and Reilly Smith answered that less than two minutes later with a power play strike of his own. Patrice Bergeron gave the B’s a 2-1 lead but Pominville knotted it at two just 28 seconds later. The action tapered off in the second period, not much happened until Loui Eriksson was on the end of a double deflection for another power play goal and 3-2 lead. Boston had a couple chances to seal it with later power plays including a rare 4-on-3 advantage but they couldn’t do it.
If not for Tuukka Rask (21 saves), the Bruins would have lost in overtime since he made a couple top-notch saves. Koivu’s shootout goal was the only one for either team in the three rounds.
Boston’s mini road trip concludes on Thursday (8, NESN) in Winnipeg. The Jets aren’t going to the playoffs so it’s a perfect time to get more rest for different Bruins stars like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Rask.
What they'll be saying: Nothing says it is the last week of the NHL regular season like Torey Krug playing forward. This really happened as Boston’s rookie defensemen skated on the fourth line for the first two periods before he went back to his natural position in the third. In an interview with the Bruins’ radio announcers Dave Goucher and Bob Beers between periods, Krug claimed to have not played forward since “bantams.”
Jarome Iginla (lower body injury) and Kevan Miller (stiffness) both missed their second straight game and David Krejci was scratched for the first time this season. That leaves Bergeron, Smith, Gregory Campbell and Marchand as the only Bruins to have appeared in all 79 games so far. Iginla and Miller skated on Tuesday morning and head coach Claude Julien said that they could have suited up if it was a playoff game.
Smith became the fifth Bruin to score 20 goals this season, joining Iginla, Bergeron, Marchand, and Lucic. Bergeron’s goal extended his career-best 12-game point streak: 12 goals and six assists.
Boston can clinch the Presidents’ Trophy with a win at Winnipeg coupled with a loss by St. Louis that night in Minnesota. The Blues have dropped their last three games including a 4-1 loss vs. Washington on Tuesday. The Bruins are up three points on them and both have only three games remaining. The Presidents’ Trophy was instituted in 1985-86 and the only one captured by the Bruins was in 1989-90. They lost 4-1 to Edmonton in the Stanley Cup Finals that season.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate