|Bruins' winger Jarome Iginila poses with the puck from is 555th career goal. Iginla played in 1300th game on Monday.|
But in the end it had the old feel, the machine from Beantown crushing yet another opponent, methodically wearing down the slick skaters from Minnesota, the Bruins turning a one goal lead at the end of two into a 4-1 rout on Monday night for their ninth consecutive victory.
The sizzling Jarome Iginla potted two of the four goals, on a long-range knuckler that faked out Minnesota goaltender Darcy Kuemper and the other an empty net finisher, Riley Smith got a slump-buster and Loui Eriksson found twine on a spectacular feed from Carl Soderberg as the Bruins increased their lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top seed in the Eastern Conference to five points.
Boston Goalie Tuukka Rask stopped all but one of Minnesota's 34 shots, allowing only a Jason Pominville breakaway goal late in the second period.
The Wild are as quick and aggressive as their name would suggest, and when mixed with their penchant for risky behavior in their own zone, it makes them a dangerous matchup for a grinding, heavy team like the Bruins - and also more risky as the Bruins may be the most opportunistic squad in the league up and down all four lines...
...and Minnesota had their chances, throwing the deep ball of off big rebounds with stretch passes across two zones, but Rask stoned every breakaway chance but one to earn his 31st win of the season.
The first period belonged to the aggressive Wild, outshooting the Bruins 10-8 to open the game and winning most of the battles along the boards and getting to just about every puck before the Bruins, but as it turns out, it was just a matter of the patient Bruins taking Minnesota's best shot and counter punching in the second frame.
Iginla's goals came in his 1300th game in the National Hockey League, the first a knuckler off the hip of Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin from the top of the left circle that Kuemper mis-timed and tumbled through his wickets for a 1-0 Boston lead just less than four minutes into the second...
...then Eriksson was the beneficiary of some nifty stick work from big Swedish centerman Carl Soderberg, who shoplifted a puck from Kyle Brodziak while the centerman was looking for an outlet from the zone, then circled around the back of the net - blocked from attempting the wrap around shot he instead floated to the wing and hit Eriksson's tape with a nifty pass across the low slot.
The Wild got one back late in the period on a Jason Pominville break away - literally - as he beat Matt Bartkowski to one of those stretch passes that he caught up to at the high point with a step on the Bruins' defenseman, Bartkowski chopping down on Pominville's stick as he shot, his stick snapping in half as the puck lodged in the net behind Rask.
But Minnesota couldn't capitalize on their brief momentum shift to end the second period, which was unfortunate because the Bruins took control of the final frame from opening faceoff - Smith snapping in a big rebound in the low slot off a Patrice Bergeron shot to put the game out of reach, then Iginla wristed one into the empty net from center ice with a minute to play to provide the final tally.
The loss was just the second in regulation for the Wild in their last dozen contests, and maintain their lead over Dallas for the first wildcard spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
The Bruins now catch the red eye to New Jersey, where the will face off against the Devils on Tuesday night when the have a chance to match the longest winning streak in the NHL this season with a win, then could extend that to the longest with a victory over the Avalanche in Denver on Friday night.