Spurgeon stays hot as Wild rally twice to take down Senators
OTTAWA, Ontario — Speak softly and carry a big stick.
The philosophy worked for Teddy Roosevelt, the Ragtime president whose outsized personality and voracious curiosity earned him a carving on Mount Rushmore.
In style and stature no one will ever mistake Jared Spurgeon for the Bull Moose, though right now Minnesota’s diminutive defenseman is wielding a very big stick at both ends of the ice.
Spurgeon scored a pair of goals Saturday in the Wild’s 4-3 matinee victory over the woebegone Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Center. That makes three goals and two assists for Spurgeon in the last two games as Minnesota improved to 2-0 on its four-game trek through the Atlantic Division.
Naturally the soft-spoken blue-liner deflected praise to his teammates.
“Not much I’m doing,” Spurgeon shrugged. “I think the guys are creating space and making good plays and just trying to be simple. As a D-group, we’re just trying to put pucks on the net and let our forwards get to work. They’re doing a good job of getting to the net.”
So much was left unspoken.
After the Wild fell behind 1-0 at the end of the first period, Spurgeon pinched in and cut hard to the middle over the ice before switching to his backhand and deftly slipping the puck past it past Ottawa goaltender Anders Nilsson 41 seconds into the second.
“Once I saw Zach (Parise) sort of pushing that D back, it was a little easier to make a decision,” said Spurgeon. “But I just think once I made the face, (Nilsson) dropped and I just tried to get it around his pad. He’s a big guy.”
Spurgeon tied the game again late in the second period. Pinching down once more, he whipped a sharp-angle shot that beat Nilsson on the short side.
“Uh, just fired it,” Spurgeon said. “Just trying to put it on net. I think Zach was already in front of the net and worst case there was a rebound for him.”
On the season Spurgeon has seven goals among 24 points. He also blocked three Ottawa shots Saturday, giving him eight in the past two games.
Spurgeon’s contributions have relieved some of the pressure on Minnesota’s defense corps after losing leading scorer Matt Dumba, who is sidelined indefinitely after having surgery.
“I think all of us back there are just trying to simplify the game and get pucks on the net,” he understated. “With how hard it is to score nowadays, you’re just hoping it bounces off somebody and goes in.”
They Wild rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits and finally put down a weaker opponent instead of playing down to their competition. The Senators’ 15 wins are tied for fewest in the league and they are 0-6-1 in their last seven games.
Suddenly, the Wild have won three out of four, all on the road, after wheezing through a 4-10-1 stretch as the calendar flipped to 2019.
“It’s the first time we’ve won two in a row — touch wood — for an awful long time,” said coach Bruce Boudreau. “But we’re not out of the woods. We gotta put a good run together to ever feel comfortable or it’s going to be knee-scratching games for the last 40 or 42 or whatever we have left.”
Knee scratching? Forget it. He was rolling.
So is Zach Parise, who leads the Wild with 19 goals. He scored for the third straight game while adding a pair of assists. Linemates Luke Kunin and Charlie Coyle also had two assists. And Devan Dubnyk made 24 saves for the win, the first time he has won consecutive starts since Dec. 11-13.
Parise, who bagged the game winner, let his inner Spurgeon take over.
“Those guys did all the work,” he said. “I just floated around on the back side and got the reward. But those guys, like they were doing all night and have been doing, they work. They just chase the puck down. When we give it away, we get it back.
“It’s fun hockey to play.”