BOSTON — 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 score 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. Boston is 12-1-2 in its last 15 games.
Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith also scored for Boston.
“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. The inconsistent Kuemper made 25 saves. Rask had another strong outing.
“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.”
Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk missed the game because of a lower-body injury suffered in Saturday’s win against Carolina.