BOSTON - Things were not lining up for the Bruins to have a strong offensive night.
Boston had not scored a goal against the Minnesota Wild in two years, having been shutout in both meetings a season ago. On top of that, the Bruins never-ending injury bug had consumed yet another top scorer on Monday with Brad Marchand out because of an upper-body injury.
Add his absence to the already sidelined David Backes, David Krejci, and Ryan Spooner and Boston was missing 90 goals of production from last season.
But sports can work in mysterious ways. As was the case on Monday night.
Boston erupted for five goals - from five different players - for a 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden. Perhaps the most gratifying part of the offensive explosion was that the goals came from what - at least at the beginning of the year - the Bruins considered their secondary scoring.
"Well we're going to need it right?" said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. "We'll win some games with our top-end guys, but if we're going to win consistently then we need it from everybody."
The Bruins got a boost from what, based on pregame warmups, is currently their fourth line. With Marchand out, Frank Vatrano was re-inserted into the lineup after missing the last two games as a healthy scratch and was placed on the right wing alongside Jake DeBrusk and Jordan Szwarz.
The trio combined for two first-period goals and finished as a combined plus-6. Szwarz, meanwhile, picked up his first two career assists.
"Those two guys that are pretty easy to play with," said Szwarz, who was also a plus-3 and landed two hits in 14 minutes of ice time. "We talked before the game - just keep it simple, get pucks behind them. We did that and we were able to retrieve some pucks. We got the couple good looks and couple of good bounces to go with it."
With Boston down by a goal in the first, DeBrusk got things started with a stellar individual effort. The speedy 21-year-old zipped down the left wing to track down a Zdeno Chara (two assists) lob from the offensive zone. DeBrusk caught up with Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon in the Minnesota end, picked his pocket, and whipped the puck toward the front of the net.
The puck pinballed off Ryan Suter and over the glove of Devan Dubnyk to tie the game at 10:23 of the opening period.
"We talk about his foot speed, getting his legs underneath him, he's attacking, winning pucks and if you get towards the net you're going to get some of those breaks so good for him," Cassidy said of DeBrusk.
The line picked up where they left off on their next shift. Vatrano took a short feed from Szwarz inside the Bruins blue line and, like DeBrusk, soared down the left wing. When he reached the top of the circle, Vatrano swiped at the puck - which was on edge - and, in vintage Tim Wakefield fashion, knuckled it off the post. The puck then clanked off the back of Dubnyk's leg and into the net for Vatrano's first goal of the year and a 2-1 Boston lead at 12:42.
"I think our line started off first shift right away… we were creating cycles, we were getting offense from behind the net, and I think we took momentum right after that first shift," said Vatrano, who was a plus-2 with four shots on goal in nearly 14 minutes of ice time. "Sometimes the hockey gods are with you and they were with us tonight."
Boston added two second-period tallies from Sean Kuraly and Torey Krug to open up a 4-1 advantage. On Kuraly's goal, the Bruins again turned the left wing into a fast lane.
Tim Schaller raced through the neutral zone, dangled through Nino Niederreiter, and fired a shot on goal. Danton Heinen followed the rebound and was denied by Dubnyk's glove, but Kuraly charged the crease and potted his second goal in three games to extend Boston's lead to 3-1.
"I think we've wanted to play that way," said Cassidy. "I think in training camp you start to see some of it when Jake was there, he can motor. Frank can go in straight lines. I think it just worked out that we're able to hunt down pucks.
"So that worked out well for us tonight and that's all it was. Nothing to do with I think how Minnesota played, it was more about the personnel we have and the situations that have presented themselves."
Krug's one-time blast from the point made it 4-1 at 7:43 of the second period, but Minnesota surged in the third to get within a goal. Mikael Granlund struck just 1:33 into the third, before Eric Staal grabbed a shorthanded goal on a breakaway with 4:04 to go. The Wild could have had more if not for Tuukka Rask's strong performance, which included his stop on Granlund's penalty shot at around the seven-minute mark of the period.
"We made it tough on ourselves again," said Rask, who made 24 saves. "But it's hockey, it happens. We found a way to win. Overall I think you've got to take a lot of those positive things we did today and go from there because it was a heck of a game."
Schaller, who notched first career multi-point game, put an end to Minnesota's comeback hopes with an empty-netter with 57 seconds to go. It was the perfect conclusion to a night in which Boston needed contributions from throughout the lineup.
"We had five guys working up and down," said Chara. "I thought that we had guys managing the puck really well, especially in the first two periods. We kept it, for the most part, in the offensive zone simple. And we got rewarded. Second efforts, those are the ones that really count - goals off the rebounds, taking simple shots off the wing, shooting for rebounds - those are the kind of things that go a long way in this league.
"Those pretty plays aren't going to be happening every night. It's sometimes not pretty, but it's effective and you're getting results."