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Captain's return sparks Wild in win over Ducks

Spurgeon's trifecta of great defensive plays helps Minnesota kill 5-on-3, maintain momentum early in Anaheim

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe / Wild.com

It's impossible to measure exactly how much the Wild missed Jared Spurgeon on Tuesday night in Los Angeles.

But if there was a clear example of how critical he is to the team he now captains, it came just past the halfway point of the first period Thursday night against the Anaheim Ducks.

With Minnesota holding a 2-0 lead, the Ducks were presented an opportunity to skate with a 5-on-3 advantage for more than one minute.

It was the kind of moment that easily could have changed the momentum of the game, and not in a good way for Minnesota.

Instead, it was Spurgeon using an active stick and some solid positioning to force three clears on a single shift, short-circuiting the Ducks' two-man advantage before it had a chance to get going. 

Almost single-handedly, Spurgeon killed off one of Anaheim's best chances to get back into a game it never led. 

Video: MIN@ANA: Hartman picks the corner to open scoring

"Yes, the Minnesota Wild killed it, but literally, it was Jared Spurgeon that killed it," said Wild coach Dean Evason. "His stick was absolutely phenomenal. The effort and the leadership that he brought tonight, and certainly in that 5-on-3, was a very [big] bright spot."

The Ducks would eventually get it to 2-1 in the second period, but never really threatened again as Minnesota added a late Marcus Foligno power-play goal in a 3-1 win at the Honda Center.

Video: MIN@ANA: Foligno nets PPG on nice tic-tac-toe play

It was Foligno who committed a delay of game penalty moments before Spurgeon's trio of quality plays, that really put the Wild behind the 8-ball. 

With Minnesota already killing one penalty and with a bunch of open ice in front of him, Foligno put a little too much on his clearing attempt, rocketing it over the end-wall glass 140 feet away, earning himself two minutes in the sin bin. 

"Terrible penalty for me, and it's a pretty bad feeling when you're sitting in the box after kind of a bonehead play," Foligno said. "Huge play by Spurgey, multiple times. I was very relieved ... he basically killed that penalty by himself." 

The Ducks didn't register a shot on goal until almost 17 minutes into the game, and totaled just 17 on the night. Scoring chances were limited, as was offensive zone time. 

All of that is a credit to Spurgeon's return, as well as that of fellow veteran defenseman Ian Cole, who was quiet but steady in his first game back from the COVID-19 protocol list as well.

Having Spurgeon and Cole in the lineup allowed Evason and assistant coach Bob Woods to more evenly distribute minutes amongst the entire blueline group. 

Video: MIN@ANA: Fiala scores in 1st period

"I think it kind of calms the room a little bit," Foligno said. "In L.A., we had a lot of new guys, a lot of guys up from the taxi squad who worked their butts off and it's good for them to get that opportunity to finally play a game.

"But when you have your regular lineup in -- and we're still missing some guys -- but there's just a sense of calm and I think it settles the room down a little bit. Those guys were big and [the penalty kill], that's what those guys can bring and it just lifts us up a little bit."

In terms of reinforcements, more would appear to be on the way as four more players were removed from the COVID-19 protocol list, including regulars Jonas Brodin and Carson Soucy. With those two back in the mix, Minnesota could potentially field a full defensive group for the first time in a few weeks. 

Forward Victor Rask and goaltender Cam Talbot were also removed, while goaltender Andrew Hammond was added to the list on Thursday. 

All four players removed are expected to practice with Minnesota on Friday and Evason said they could be ready to re-join the lineup as soon as Saturday night's rematch with the Ducks. 


Related:

Postgame Hat Trick: Wild 3, Ducks 1

Video: Foligno, Fiala each score in Wild's 3-1 road win

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