ST. PAUL — The Wild were the best team in the league over the previous month, unbeaten in regulation (11-0-3) and challenging for the top spot in the West.
That was more than enough motivation for the Bruins.
“We’ve been the hunted all year long,” coach Jim Montgomery said before Saturday’s puck drop. His team, he added, was “ready to hunt tonight.”
Jake DeBrusk, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and Trent Frederic (empty-netter) scored, the Bruins won two offside challenges, and slipped free from a Minnesota matinee with a 5-2 win.
It was the Wild’s first regulation loss since Feb.15, ending its franchise-record 14-game point streak. The Bruins noted it in their dressing room before the game, and before the third period.
Part of the hunt, Montgomery said, would involve taking the puck into the tough areas and staying there. The Bruins did that for most of the day, particularly the third line centered by Wild alum Charlie Coyle. They exhausted the Wild before Bergeron’s line did the same, and DeBrusk jumped off the bench to tie the game at 18:38 of the first.
After watching Coyle bully opponents on the puck, Montgomery called him “a man possessed.”
“Usually when we play tough teams,” Coyle said, “we get to our game right away because we know we have to. Usually our start is on. Whether we score the first goal or not, we stay at it, we do the right things, we play simple. We do that, and we take over.”
Overcoming a one-goal deficit, the Bruins (52-11-5) pulled even on this road trip (2-2-0), which will end Sunday afternoon in Buffalo.
Linus Ullmark, improving to 34-5-1 in his 200th career game, made 29 saves. He did not take a shot at the empty net before Frederic zipped home his 16th goal with 1:57 left.
“Every day is a treat, especially around a group of guys like this,” said Ullmark, who will be the backup Sunday against his old club, of his milestone. “I couldn’t be happier right now.”
Ullmark and his mates were at their best on a five-on-three penalty kill that lasted 1:24 at the end of the second period. They allowed two shots, shutting down the Wild’s seam passes. Without the injured Derek Forbort (foot), the visitors were 4 for 5 on the PK.
Oskar Sundqvist cut Boston’s lead to 3-2 on the power play at 7:17 of the third. About five minutes later, Bergeron, scoring his 25th of the season, took a Brad Marchand feed and snapped one under the bar. That was the 408th time the two longtime teammates have factored on a goal, a franchise record.
Bergeron and Marchand assisted on DeBrusk’s goal for connection No. 407, which broke the mark held by Johnny Bucyk and Phil Esposito.
After the Bruins carried the opening minutes, the Wild made it 1-0 at 9:45 off a quick transition. Retreating to his zone, Brandon Carlo tangled with both Millis’s Matt Boldy and teammate Hampus Lindholm as the Wild zipped the puck to the front of the net. Short-time Bruin Marcus Johansson deposited a tic-tac-toe pass.
Some three minutes later, right after the Bruins killed a Marchand tripping minor, Johansson fed Matt Dumba from behind the net. But the goal, at 13:02, was wiped out on an offside challenge. Connor Dewar was in Minneapolis while the puck was in St. Paul.
The game changed when Bergeron, along with Marchand, harassed Dumba and Joel Eriksson Ek down low and won the puck to a safe area, then saw DeBrusk streaking off the bench. Pointing his compass to an unoccupied area, the winger caught Bergeron’s feed and launched a far-side rocket over Filip Gustavsson’s glove.
Jon Merrill, who committed stick fouls on consecutive shifts, helped the Bruins take the lead. Lindholm got the Minnesota PK shifting slightly away from Pastrnak, then found the sniper in the left circle. Pastrnak fired a low, far-side wrister for his 47th goal at 8:43 of the second.
It was his first power-play goal since Jan. 22, ending a drought of 21 games. Pastrnak hadn’t gone dry on the man-advantage for that long since the 27-gamer to finish the 2020-21 regular season.
About a minute later, the Bruins won another offside review, and this one was close enough to get the Xcel Energy Center crowd challenging the reputation that Minnesota folks are overly nice. They were heated that Boldy, who wound up scoring the would-be goal, entered the zone without possession.
Most of the 19,320 in attendance — the largest Wild bunch this season — booed the officials as they skated out for the third.
But not before Krejci made it 3-1 on a lucky bounce, at 14:03. He was looking for Charlie McAvoy’s stick at the far post, but instead found Johansson’s in the slot.
“It’s not often you let in two extra goals and still come out with the win,” Ullmark said of the reviews. “Got to give credit to [video coaches] Sean [Andrake] and Matty [Myers] for catching that.”
Indeed, the players gave Andrake and Myers the game puck afterward, and kept rolling to Buffalo.