Jarome Iginla’s slow start in Boston is now a distant memory.
Iginla scored two goals, Tuukka Rask stopped 33 shots, and the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins extended their winning streak to nine games with a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Monday night.
Signed during the offseason to replace departed free agent Nathan Horton on the Bruins’ top line, Iginla has fit in perfectly.
“We lose a guy that we thought would be back for us, in Horton. That was a big hole to fill,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “He’s come in and filled that hole really well. You mention the stats, he brings us the same thing the other guy did with his size and scoring ability. He’s done a great job.
“We’re talking about a veteran here with tremendous leadership qualities. He’s certainly been a great asset to our team.”
Iginla’s scoring didn’t come for a while with Boston. He didn’t net his first goal until his ninth game, and had just five in his first 29.
But now he is scoring goals even when his shots are blocked.
The Bruins grabbed a 1-0 lead 3:52 into the second period on Iginla’s first of the game. His shot was deflected by the stick of defenseman Jonas Brodin and popped into the air.
Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper appeared to lose sight of the puck, and it bounced between his pads just before he dropped.
Iginla was smiling along the boards when his teammates came to congratulate him. Iginla added an empty-netter, his team-leading 25th goal, with 65 seconds to play.
“It was a very fluky, fortunate bounce goal. I’ll definitely take them,” he said, flashing a similar smile while standing in front of his locker.
The Bruins increased their conference lead to five points over idle second-place Pittsburgh by posting their longest winning streak since a 10-game run in November 2011. Boston is 12-1-2 in its last 15 games.
Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith also scored for Boston, which beat the Wild at home for the first time after losing the first six meetings. The Bruins are 3-10 overall against the Wild, who began play in the 2000-01 season.
“They were real consistent in how they played,” Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard said. “They’ve got good balance to their lineup.”
Jason Pominville had the only goal for Minnesota, which lost for the fifth time in six games, but three of those defeats came in shootouts. Kuemper made 25 saves.
About 2 1-2 minutes after Iginla’s first goal, Rask robbed Mikko Koivu with a glove stop on a shot from in front. He also made a right-pad save on Nino Niederreiter’s shot from the left circle with just over 2 1-2 minutes left in the game.
“Our goaltending has been outstanding all year without question,” Iginla said. “They give us a chance every night with big momentum shifts. We also feel as the game goes on we can start playing physical to start taking over the game and try to wear teams down.”
Rask played like what the Wild expected to face.
“He was very good. We knew that going into the game, and he was as good as people say he is,” Koivu said. “He made some great saves.”
Boston made it 2-0 at 11:55 when Carl Soderberg circled the net and sent a backhanded pass across the crease and through a group of players to Eriksson, who one-timed it into the net.
Pominville cut it to 2-1 with 1:26 left in the second. He unloaded a slap shot, and the blade of his stick broke. It flew toward Rask as the puck sailed by his glove inside the near post.
Smith scored off the rebound of Bergeron’s shot, making it 3-1 at 7:50 of the third.
NOTES: Bruins defenseman and captain Zdeno Chara will turn 37 on Tuesday. … Boston D Johnny Boychuk missed the game because of a lower-body injury. He went into the boards awkwardly Saturday in a win against Carolina and was helped to the bench, favoring his right leg. He returned and blocked a shot with that leg on his next shift and went to the bench slowly again. He tested the leg Monday morning and said it was too sore for him to play. … The Bruins have never scored a power-play goal against the Wild, going 0 for 36. Boston had no power plays in the game. … Iginla became the 55th player and the fifth active one to play in 1,300 NHL games.