Reilly Smith is not Brad Marchand. There was no real celebration after he scored his first goal in 16 games, nothing over the top, no monkey being taken off his back, as Marchand had mimed after ending his own drought back in November. But Smith could have been excused for uttering “finally,” as it appeared he did, after slamming a Patrice Bergeron rebound past Darcy Kuemper for his first goal since Jan. 28.
“I’ll have to check the replay,” Smith said with a smile, when asked if that was what he said.
Smith scored the deciding goal in a shootout March 8 in Tampa Bay, but hadn’t scored in regulation in nearly seven weeks. He ended that drought by crashing the net and cleaning up the puck at 7:50 of the third period, the third goal in the Bruins’ 4-1 win over Minnesota.
“I don’t think I’ve scored a pretty goal this year, so I figured it was going to come that way,” Smith said. “But it was a long time, so it was definitely a good feeling.”
By beating the Wild at TD Garden — the first time Boston had done that in seven games against Minnesota — the Bruins pushed their winning streak to nine games. It is the team’s longest such streak since winning 10 in a row in November 2011.
Not that coach Claude Julien was satisfied.
“We had some stuff to look at before tonight — in case you guys didn’t know that,” he said. “Just another one of those games where goaltending was good. Again, too many breakaways or good scoring chances, and we have to fix that. But, again, we played well enough to win.”
Jarome Iginla added two goals, the Bruins’ first of the night (3:52 of the second) and an empty-netter with 1:05 left. Those goals gave Iginla six in his last five games, bringing him to 25 on the season and 555 in 1,300 NHL games.
The initial score was a blooper of a goal that knuckled on its way to Kuemper, then beat him five-hole.
That was followed closely by a highlight-reel save by Tuukka Rask at 6:04. Rask knocked the puck down, then captured it under his legs, the second good save he had to make on fellow Finn Mikko Koivu.
As Koivu said, “He was as good as people say he is.”
The Bruins got another goal on a brilliant play by Carl Soderberg, which started with a Chris Kelly giveaway. Soderberg got the puck back, then wrapped around the Wild net before sending a cross-ice pass to Loui Eriksson. He put the puck home at 11:55 for his eighth goal of the season, giving Soderberg his 27th assist.
The effort and passing exemplified the run that Soderberg has been on since moving to his natural center spot six weeks ago. In those 19 games, Soderberg has six goals and 10 assists.
Rask didn’t stay perfect, giving up a snipe that broke Jason Pominville’s stick at 18:34, with both the puck and the stick coming at the goaltender. Pominville got free on a semi-breakaway, just the kind of play Julien has been railing against. Still, Rask had 33 saves on the night, including 16 in the third period.
While the Bruins were happy to head out on the road (New Jersey, Colorado, Phoenix) with yet another win, no one was more relieved than Smith, who was able to cash in on one of his four shots on net. He had been getting chances, getting closer, with six shots on net in Saturday’s win over Carolina.
Smith knew he had the ability — he had, after all, scored 18 goals in his first 52 games this season, leading the team in goals at the beginning of January.
“At the start of the year I definitely went through a bit of a hot streak, and I mentioned a few times that it could go cold just as fast as it went hot,” Smith said. “Hopefully I’m through this and I won’t go through another 15 games or whatever it was. Just happy to be able to help the team win tonight.
“I’ve done a pretty good job last couple games of getting pucks on net, trying not to be too fancy, just trying to get it there. I was hoping it was going to be tonight. It worked out well.”