By Brian Hall
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) — On the night they raised their
first Northwest Division championship banner, the Minnesota Wild
took the first step toward adding another.
Eric Belanger scored two goals and Pierre-Marc Bouchard added a
pair of assists as the Wild held on for a 4-3 victory over the
Boston Bruins on Saturday.
Newly elected captain Mikko Koivu also set up two tallies for
Minnesota, which improved to 5-0-0 in season openers at home.
“I just think our team has more depth offensively this year,”
Belanger said. “I think the scoring is going to be a lot more
spread out among our lines, and even our defensemen are joining
the pack more. So that is going to help up create a lot more
offense. It’s going to be different guys chipping in every
night, and that’s going to make us a good team.”
“We got the goals, which was good,” Minnesota coach Jacques
Lemaire said. “Personally, I didn’t like the game that much. I
know we’ll play better than we did tonight. It’s always great
to win. You have to know there’s certain things you have to do
in the future if you want to keep winning.”
Defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron netted a power-play goal 4:01
into the second period to snap a 1-1 tie and Antti Miettinen
doubled the Wild’s lead 6:18 later. Belanger capped the
three-goal middle session with 7:32 left.
“Getting that goal in the first was big, getting us back in the
game,” Belanger said. “Because I thought we were a little
sluggish in the first period. Definitely in the second, we took
it to them. That was a big effort from us.”
Marc Savard tallied midway through the third and cut the Bruins’
deficit to one with 98 seconds left, but his team was unable to
get off a good shot in the final seconds against Niklas
Backstrom, who made 34 saves in his 100th career NHL game.
“It’s funny to say, but the best period that I liked was the
third period, even though they came back on us,” Lemaire said.
“It’s funny. We made mistakes, left a guy in the high slot. We
just leave him there, and he gets the shot and scores. But
moving the puck up, the guys were in the offensive zone, I
thought we played much better.”
Belanger began a string of four straight tallies by Minnesota
late in the first, erasing a 1-0 deficit with 88 seconds
remaining by beating Manny Fernandez – a former member of the
Wild – during a man advantage. Belanger took a pass from rookie
Colton Gillies and glided the puck under Fernandez’s pads.
“There was no doubt that there were some tough goals that went
in on (Fernandez) tonight,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
“However you look at it, they are tough goals. I guess when you
haven’t played for a while, you are going to be a little rusty.
If you want to take the positive out of it, every goal that was
scored on him, he was in good position, they went through him.
“It’s not like he was out of position. They went through him.
Obviously, we need to keep working with him and stop those, and
we’ll be in good shape.”
Fernandez, making his first appearance against his former club
since leaving after the 2006-07 season, made 22 saves for the
Bruins. It was the first regular-season start for Fernandez
since October 22, 2007, as he missed all but four games last
campaign with a knee injury.
“The first and second goals were good examples of what is
missing in my game – the sharpness,” Fernandez said. “Those are
two goals that shouldn’t go (in). There is no reason for that,
regardless of whether I get a good look or not. It wasn’t
tipped or anything, barely made it through, both of them. I
have to clean it up.”
Phil Kessel opened the scoring for Boston with a wrist shot that
beat Backstrom to the stick side eight minutes into the game.
Patrice Bergeron unleashed a shot that rang off the right
goalpost and gathered the puck before feeding Kessel for his
second tally of the season.