NEWARK, N.J. — Matt Boldy scooped up the puck, the same puck that the Devils' Jack Hughes had just smacked into the post.
Boldy exited the Wild's zone, crossed center ice and skated over the New Jersey blue line.
He deked to his backhand and eluded a stretched-out Vitek Vanecek guarding the Devils net.
"Matt's a fast guy," Wild goaltender Filip Gustavsson said. "I can see him skate in practice. I looked at the clock. I knew he was going to get a shot on net."
At the end of a minute-plus shift during 3-on-3 action, Boldy served up the quintessential March Madness buzzer-beater, finalizing a 2-1 overtime win for the Wild over New Jersey on Tuesday in front of 16,124 at Prudential Center that briefly lifted the Wild into first place in the Central Division.
Another late tally, a last-second goal by Dallas' Jamie Benn, secured the point the Stars needed to bmp the Wild to second and reclaim the top spot courtesy of owning the
tiebreaker. Both teams have 90 points with 11 games to go in the regular season.
This was Boldy's first career overtime goal, his shot sailing in with 1.3 seconds to go to put a bow on a 70-second shift. Officially clocked at 4:58, Boldy's finish with two seconds left is tied for the second-latest OT goal in Wild history behind Matt Dumba's last-second tally on Feb. 27, 2021.
"To have the gas that he had at the end was impressive," coach Dean Evason.
While Evason thought there was "plenty of time left" for Boldy to maneuver, Boldy actually wasn't as aware of the countdown.
He knew his shift started with a minute and change remaining but not until he peeled away from the Devils goal mouth and heard the horn sound did he realize how close it was to the end of overtime. Ultimately, that might have helped him.
"I had time to make the move that I wanted to make," he said. "Kind of make a read on the goalie rather than coming in and trying to fire one."
Not only did this extend the Wild's point streak on the road to nine games, a 7-0-2 run that's tied for the third longest in team history, but the Wild improved to 13-1-3 over their past 17.
Gustavsson was key, amassing a career-high 47 saves (including an eye-popping 20 in the third period) to reset after dropping his past two appearances while getting tagged for nine goals.
He also rebounded from a challenging first period when pucks weren't sticking to him like they usually do.
"I don't think I did anything different," said Gustavsson, who has surrendered two goals or fewer in 22 of his 31 starts. "It's maybe one centimeter, one, two centimeters off, and they're shooting it 70 to 100 mph. It's hard to be that precise every time. Sometimes it just bounces off of you."
At the other end, Vanecek wasn't as busy (27 stops), but both netminders were perfect through two periods. Neither power play converted either, with the Wild 0-for-1 and New Jersey 0-for-3.
Finally, at 6:41 of the third period, Mason Shaw jammed in a loose puck.
"It's almost like a little bit of a chess match," Shaw said. "We talked in the third period, 'Don't be the ones to blink first.'"
By 12:08, the Devils responded on a wraparound from Timo Meier to set up a photo finish. Literally.
"He's shooting the puck with a purpose," Evason said of Boldy, who has four goals in his past two games — and 23 overall — after scoring a hat trick in Sunday's 5-3 victory over the Capitals. The winger is up to 10 points during a season-longest six-game point streak and boasts 12 points in his past nine.
As for the Wild, this was their 19th one-goal victory, and they're 13-1-8 in games that are tied with five minutes remaining in regulation.
Their 12 wins decided past regulation?
Those are tied for the most in the NHL, further proof of how clutch the Wild have been in crunch time.
"That's our identity, I guess," Gustavsson said.