NHL - Bruins cap off near-perfect month
The Boston Bruins capped off a near-perfect November with a 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, extending their unbeaten run to 13 games.
The Bruins began the season with a woeful 3-7 start but the Stanley Cup champions have scorched through November, going an entire month without a regulation loss for the first time since 1969 to post a 12-0-1 record.
Now top of the Northeast Division, Boston's only blemish during the sparkling run was an overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings on November 25.
"It's quite an accomplishment, it's going to be rare," Bruins netminder Tim Thomas said. "It might be one of those things where it happens only once in your career, for a lot of guys it won't even happen once in their careers.
"For anyone who has played for the Bruins their whole career, obviously no one has done that since 1969.
"Unfortunately the way the world works and the way this league works, November is gone, it's behind us."
With a rematch set for Boston on Saturday, the mini-series has been viewed as an early season acid test for the surprising Maple Leafs, who have not been in the playoffs since 2004.
The streaking Bruins stormed into Toronto having already clobbered the Maple Leafs 7-0 and 6-2 in two earlier meetings but still behind them in the division standings.
Suffering through a 44-year championship drought, these have been optimistic times in Toronto with the Maple Leafs spending most of the season at or near the top of the Eastern Conference.
But the Bruins showed their class as they continued their domination over Toronto, outscoring the Maple Leafs 19-5 in the three meetings to date.
Milan Lucic paced Bruins with a pair of goals while David Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Benoit Pouliot and Brad Marchand also found the back of the net 'We came into this game wanting to end the month of right and get things going and build some momentum going into December," Lucic said.
"Heading into this month we talked a lot about playing the way we want to play and get ourselves out of the funk of being in last place where we were after October.
"Going 12-0-1 is more than anyone imagined and it all comes down to commitment from all the guys the whole month.
"We have to keep building from this."
The two teams traded powerplay goals in the first period, the Maple Leafs Mikhail Grabovski sweeping a backhand past Thomas to open the scoring before Lucic answered for the Bruins.
Krejci scored early in the second to put the visitors in front but this time it was the Leafs responding, Joffrey Lupul taking a pinpoint feed from the NHL's leading scorer Phil Kessel and whipping it past Thomas.
Chara restored the Boston lead late in the period then Pouliot increased the advantage to 4-2 early in the third snapping a wrist shot by a screened Jonas Gustavsson.
Rookie Matt Frattin pulled one back for Toronto with his second of the season but Lucic and Marchand, into the empty net, scored to end any thoughts of a Toronto comeback.
Kyle Brodziak finally broke the deadlock with the game-clinching goal in a six-round shootout as the Minnesota Wild outlasted the Edmonton Oilers in a 3-2 thriller on Wednesday.
Both teams netted three goals apiece through five rounds of the shootout and after Edmonton's Ryan Smyth failed to score on his attempt, Brodziak buried the winner to extend the Wild's lead at the top of the Northwest Division.
"We have a bunch of fighters," first-year Wild coach Mike Yeo told reporters. "We kept fighting and finding a way... we were clawing our way into that game."
With their second straight win, Minnesota (15-7-3) now has a four-point edge over Vancouver, with Edmonton (12-10-3) trailing the leaders by six after their third consecutive loss.
During regulation play, the Wild also had to fight back from a 2-0 deficit after falling behind to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle goals for the Oilers.
Devin Setoguchi put Minnesota on the scoreboard at 11:31 in the second period and Brodziak netted the equalizer about three minutes later before the two goaltenders held the game scoreless for the next 30 minutes.
Niklas Backstrom finished with 28 saves, including two stops in the shootout, to lead Minnesota, while counterpart Nikolai Khabibulin had 27 saves in the loss.
Edmonton had beaten the Wild 5-2 last Friday but Minnesota gained revenge in the fourth meeting between these teams already this season. The Wild have won three of those encounters.
Mikko Koivu tallied his team-leading 16th assist of the season on Minnesota's first goal and also converted a shootout shot to keep the team's momentum moving forward.
"It feels good to be part of a winning team," Koivu said. "We have to enjoy the win, but at the same time we have to recognize that it's early in the season."