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The Sports Xchange, Published April 08 2014

Wild clinch playoff berth with win over Bruins

ST. PAUL – A year ago, the Minnesota Wild did not clinch a playoff spot until the final minute of the final game of the regular season.

They got that work done a little earlier this time around.

Center Mikko Koivu scored the only goal in a shootout as the Wild rallied for a 4-3 win over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday, clinching a return trip to the postseason and the top wild-card slot in the Western Conference.

“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,” said Wild coach Mike Yeo. “And what a better way to do it against a team like Boston.”

The Wild (42-26-12) got the playoff clincher in dramatic fashion, via two goals from right winger Jason Pominville and a game-tying goal with 1:05 left in regulation when defenseman Ryan Suter scored with an extra attacker on the ice.

Left winger Loui Ericksson, right winger Reilly Smith and center Patrice Bergeron scored for Boston (53-18-8). Goaltender Tuukka Rask had 21 saves for the Bruins, who are 16-1-3 in their past 20 games and are close to clinching the Presidents’ Trophy.

“I felt we were a little sloppy tonight. We weren’t very sharp in our passing and our playmaking. We didn’t have everybody really playing that well. Some of our big players were just very average tonight,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “So it wasn’t a great game, but we came out of here with a point, so with what we expect out of our team and the way we played tonight, I guess we should be happy with a point.”

With the score tied 2-2 in the latter stages of the second period, Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara launched a shot from the blue line that first hit center Gregory Campbell before Ericksson redirected it past Minnesota goalie Illya Bryzgalov.

“We played a pretty solid game,” Chara said. “For sure there are parts of the game where we could’ve been better, but they played with a lot of inspiration too. We found a way to score some goals, so good efforts and good second efforts. We battled hard, just too bad we didn’t defend it until the end.”

Boston 2 1 0— 3

Minnesota 2 0 1— 4

First Period—1, Minnesota, Pominville 28 (Koivu, Parise) 1:05 (pp). 2, Boston, Smith 20 (unassisted) 3:00 (pp). 3, Boston, Bergeron 29 (Marchand, Chara) 10:28. 4, Minnesota, Pominville 29 (Moulson, Haula) 10:56.

Second Period—5, Boston, Eriksson 9 (Campbell, Chara) 16:18 (pp).

Third Period—6, Minnesota, Suter 8 (Pominville, Koivu) 18:55.

Overtime—

Shootout—Boston 0 (Bergeron NG, Smith NG, Marchand NG), Minnesota 1 (Parise NG, Koivu G, Pominville NG).

Shots on Goal—Boston 6-9-7—24. Minnesota 9-4-5—24.

Power-play opportunities—Boston 2 of 5. Minnesota 1 of 2.

Goalies—Boston Rask 35-15-6 (24 shots-21 saves). Minnesota Bryzgalov 12-8-8 (24-21).

A—18,893 (18,064). T—2:44.