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Wild clinch top wild card with OT win vs. Bruins

by Dan Myers

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With a Stanley Cup Playoff spot locked up thanks to some help from the Columbus Blue Jackets earlier in the night, the Minnesota Wild went out and decided their playoff position.

Minnesota, which trailed by a goal for almost 19 minutes of the third period, tied the game with the extra attacker at 18:55 on a goal by Ryan Suter, then won in the shootout, defeating the Boston Bruins 4-3 on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild wrapped up the top Western Conference wild-card spot with the victory. Earlier in the evening, Columbus' 4-3 overtime win against the Phoenix Coyotes had cemented Minnesota's playoff berth.

Trailing by one heading into the third period, Wild coach Mike Yeo told his players they had already clinched a playoff berth with the Coyotes' loss. it was a risky move for the third-year coach, who has now guided the Wild to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

"The message was, 'Let's not back our way into anything. Let's not come through the back door. Let's charge through the front door,'" Yeo said. "That was the message since before the game. What a better way to do that than against a team like Boston."

Wild goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov watched Patrice Bergeron fire high and wide, then made stops against Reilly Smith and Brad Marchand in the shootout, pumping both fists after shutting down Marchand with a right-pad save to end the game. Mikko Koivu scored the only goal in the shootout in the second round to help Minnesota win its first tiebreaker in its past five tries.

Koivu, who used his signature forehand-backhand-shelf move on the shootout winner, stumped Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, who said he stood in the crease prior to Koivu's turn trying to conjure up his preferred move.

"I was trying to it figure out; I couldn't remember," Rask said. "I remembered afterwards."

Minnesota, which had nine shots on goal in the final 40 minutes of regulation, connected on its last one to send the game to overtime. With Bryzgalov on the bench for an extra attacker, Jason Pominville worked the puck to the high slot, where Suter snapped a soft shot past Rask for his eighth goal.

"I kind of fanned on it," Suter said. "But we had good net-front [pressure] there. You put it on net and anything can happen."

The Wild have made a habit of scoring clutch goals late in games the past several weeks. Minnesota has rallied to tie and/or win in the third period in five of its past nine.

"If we could, we'd dial them up a little earlier too," Yeo said. "It's about the resiliency of our room. It's the leaders, it's the guys continuing to fight and on top of that, there's been much talk in our locker room about staying with the process of how we have to play the game."

The Wild nearly won the game twice in overtime, but Rask gloved Grade A chances by Matt Moulson and Pominville, who had two first-period goals, to get the game to the shootout.

Minnesota, which needed a win on the season's final day to sneak in as the eighth seed in 2012-13, now has roster options and could even rest some regulars with two games and five days remaining in the regular season.

"Last year, it was disappointing how we made the playoffs," Suter said. "This year, we've been playing well and played ourself into the playoffs the way that you want to."

Minnesota is in the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the second time in team history.

The loss spoiled a banner night for the Bruins' power play, which entered the game 0-for-36 all-time against the Wild. Finally, after 13 games and nearly 14 full seasons, the Bruins broke through with the man advantage against the Wild, and not once but twice.

Loui Eriksson's power-play goal late in the second period gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead, and for the first time Tuesday, a team held on to an advantage for quite a while.

A tripping penalty against Milan Lucic 41 seconds into the game put the Wild on the power play, and Minnesota promptly scored as Pominville's blast from the point was tipped in front by Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk and past Rask at 1:05.

But a slashing penalty on Suter gave Boston a power play 1:02 later, and a shot from the point by Smith snuck under a sliding Kyle Brodziak and past Bryzgalov at 3:00.

For Bryzgalov, the goal snapped a streak of 145:15 without allowing a goal following back-to-back shutouts.

Bergeron slammed home a rebound in front for his 29th goal to give the Bruins their first lead at 10:28 of the first.

That lead lasted less than a minute. Pominville scored his second of the night off a faceoff to Rask's left, taking a nice centering pass by Moulson on the goal line. The goal was Pominville's team-leading 29th, one more than Zach Parise, and his third multigoal game this season, first since Nov. 1.

Eriksson made it 3-2 when he and Gregory Campbell stood alone in front of Bryzgalov. Each got a piece of Zdeno Chara's snap shot from the point, but Eriksson touched it last for his ninth goal at 16:18 before Suter's late heroics tied it once again.

Boston was playing without its two leading scorers, Jarome Iginla and David Krejci, both of whom were scratched. With the Bruins locked into the top seed in the Eastern Conference, all they have to play for is the Presidents' Trophy. With three games remaining, the Bruins (114 points) lead the St. Louis Blues by three points and the Anaheim Ducks by four points for the top record in the NHL.

"I thought we were a little sloppy tonight," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We weren't very sharp. Our passing, our playmaking. … We didn't really have everybody playing that well."

Bryzgalov made 21 saves and improved to 7-0-3 since being traded to the Wild from the Edmonton Oilers on March 4.

Rask finished with 21 saves as his record fell to 35-15-6.

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