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Offense from defense not enough for Wild in San Jose

Third-period rally falls short as Minnesota gets pair of goals from defensemen

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe / Wild.com

SAN JOSE -- Down one of its biggest offensive contributors, the Wild desperately needed offense from some non-traditional sources.

On Tuesday night, it was the defensemen that stepped up in Eric Staal's absence, scoring two of Minnesota's three goals in a 4-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center.

Staal missed his first game since signing with the Wild in 2016 because of an illness, a span of 177 games with Minnesota, and 335 games overall dating back to October of 2014. 

With Staal resting back at the team hotel, it was Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba who helped fill the void.

"Our D were really good at moving up with the play and creating offense, that's where we got our offense from was our defense," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "It wasn't from a lot of the forwards out there, but our defense created a lot of that offense."

Minnesota trailed 3-1 after 40 minutes, and without Staal, earning even a point would have been an uphill battle. 

Video: MIN@SJS: Spurgeon sneaks it past Jones to cut deficit

Video: MIN@SJS: Dumba snipes it to tie the game in the 3rd

But Spurgeon and Dumba struck just 2:05 apart early in the period -- both on big blasts from the point -- to draw the Wild even.

All of the sudden, Minnesota had momentum on its side again. 

Tweet from @mnwild: Matt Hendricks, Devan Dubnyk and Jared Spurgeon recap #MINvsSJS. pic.twitter.com/7rHSHa8JM1

"It's got to be one of those strengths having those guys back there and the offense they can provide for us," said Wild forward Zach Parise, who scored Minnesota's first goal of the game midway through the second period. "We got a couple goals out of them tonight again and I really think that's when we're at our best is when those guys are active in the offensive one, when they're active up the ice. Dumba was leading the rush a lot. 

"I just know playing against that, that's really tough when the D are active. That's one of our strengths something that makes us a good team."

Playing against a team that features Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson on its back end, it was the Wild blue line that outscored its more ballyhood counterparts. 

And without their contributions, Minnesota might have struggled to get as close as it did. The Wild is now tied for second among all NHL clubs in goals from its blueline, getting 14 through its first 14 games so far.

"They've been doing it all season for us. We kind of rely on them for offense," said Wild forward Matt Hendricks, back in the lineup Tuesday for the first time since Oct. 16. "That is one of our tactics to grind it out in the offensive zone, kick it out high and let them do their thing. They got some great shots and great creativity."

Tweet from @mnwild: "Every game is a battle. If you don't bring your A game every night, you're not going to win." ��� Bruce Boudreau after his club fell to San Jose. pic.twitter.com/UgtIG8ECaj

Minnesota didn't commit a penalty against the Sharks and held their offensive chances to a relative minimum, but without a big piece like Staal, the Wild found its margin of error even thinner.

Now, the hope is Staal will be back in the lineup in time for the Wild's next game Thursday night in Los Angeles. Otherwise, the blue line might be counted on again to help carry the offensive load. 

Not that they have a problem with it.

"I think as a group of six back there, we can all skate, we can get up and join the rush and fortunately enough, we had some chances today to do that," Spurgeon said. "As a group back there we're always trying to create something for the forwards."


Related:

Video: MIN Recap: Wild rally in 3rd, but lose to Sharks

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