TORONTO – Jared Spurgeon was on the ice for the Wild’s slow start, a mile-marker during Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner’s goal-scoring trek to the net and then one of the four pillars of defense that collapsed in front during Marner’s second tally.
But as the Wild started to improve, so did Spurgeon — who embodied the team’s turnaround Thursday with a hand in three goals en route to a 4-3 rally over Toronto at Scotiabank Arena for the best offensive showing by a defenseman since Matt Dumba was knocked out of the lineup because of a torn pectoral muscle.
“No one’s going to replace Dumbs, what he brings,” Spurgeon said. “But as [defensemen], I think we can do a better job of just getting shots on net. When our forwards are going to the net, like you saw [Thursday], they’re creating stuff. We were able to get some chances.”
Not only did Dumba’s injury subtract one of the top-four defenders from the Wild’s lineup, it also robbed the team of its most dynamic sparkplug from the back end — a loss that has coincided with a dip in offense.
Although Spurgeon isn’t usually a prolific point producer, he showed he has that potential in his repertoire. After assisting on the Wild’s first two goals, Spurgeon tied the score at 3 near the midway point of the second period when he wired a shot five-hole on Maple Leafs goalie Michael Hutchinson.
Aside from three points, which tied his career high, Spurgeon had a game-high five blocked shots in his 25 minutes, 57 seconds of ice time.
“In the third, there’d be a save and then ‘Spurge’ would block a shot and then he’d block another one,” Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “He gets hit behind the net, and he was just right in there with me and we were kind of fighting through it together. That’s what he is. He had a huge block in the first period when it was 2-1. He does a little bit of everything for us. It’s nice to see him get on the board offensively as well.”
Winger Zach Parise’s omission from the Central Division roster for the NHL All-Star Game became a bit more glaring after Parise delivered the game-winner Thursday, his team-leading 18th goal and third in the past four contests.
After the game, only five Central Division players had scored more than Parise. The 34-year-old, however, could still be included in the event, as the Wild’s candidate for the league’s “Last Men In” fan vote.
“It’s tough when we haven’t been winning,” Parise said. “It’s tough for anyone. I don’t know. I feel like I’m doing all right. I like the way I’m playing. It’s some pretty good players on that list. I can’t sit here and make a case for myself over those guys.”
Coach Bruce Boudreau’s mother, Theresa, was captured on the local TV broadcast, crossing her fingers as the Wild tried to hold off the Maple Leafs in the third period and then celebrating when time finally expired.
This was the first time Theresa watched Boudreau, who is from Toronto, coach in person with the Wild.
“I thought she would have left at the five-minute mark of the first,” Boudreau said. “I’m glad she stayed.”
Blue line shuffle
Defenseman Nick Seeler returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games because of an upper-body injury. He was paired with Ryan Murphy, who made his season debut after getting recalled from the American Hockey League on Tuesday.
Nate Prosser was the odd man out, his first absence after appearing in six consecutive games.
Puck drop Thursday was 2 p.m. local time, an earlier-than-normal start for a weekday day to welcome children to Scotiabank Arena as part of the Next Gen Game.
Minor league spotlight
Wild prospect goalie Kaapo Kahkonen and forward Cal O’Reilly were named to the AHL’s All-Star Classic.
First-year Iowa coach Tim Army will be behind the bench for the Central Division team after leading the team to the top spot in its division and the Western Conference — a 19-8-4-3 record that ranks as the best start in franchise history.