There were several streaks going into the last night’s game between the Seattle Kraken and the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.
Both teams entered with three-game winning streaks. The Knights had never lost to the Kraken in five meetings, including Seattle’s first-ever regular-season game last year, and the Kraken’s home opener at Climate Pledge Arena last month. Goaltender Phillip Grubauer, playing his first game since an injury against Colorado on Oct. 21, turned 31 yesterday and Grubauer had never lost on his birthday. The Kraken had also scored at least three goals in every road game this season.
Something had to give, and it was all good for the Kraken. Behind Andre Burakovsky’s two goals and Grubauer stopping 20 shots, Seattle bested the Knights, 4-2. Vegas holds on to first place in the Pacific Division with a 16-5-1 record but the second-place Kraken (12-5-3, 9-1-1 in their last 11 games) pick up two points in the standings.
“It’s obviously a huge win. They’re ahead of us. We want to chase them down,” Burakovsky said. “It was an important game. We lost last time against them (5-2 on Oct. 15), so we were hungry for the win today. It was good to get it done. Obviously, it’s always nice to help the team get on the board.”
Ryan Donato opened the scoring for Seattle at 2:38 of the first period. After defenseman Adam Larsson (two assists) fired a puck from the blue line, the former Harvard standout outfought Vegas goalkeeper Aidin Hill for the rebound and tucked it home. The goal was somewhat appropriate, as Donato scored the first Kraken goal ever in Vegas last season. More importantly, it was Donato’s second goal in two games. The Kraken’s fourth leading scorer a year ago, Donato has been off to a slow start. He went into Wednesday’s game against San Jose with only one goal on the season.
Burakovsky scored his first goal of the night at 8:02 on a drop pass from Larsson. Burakovsky wristed a shot past Hill. The Kraken free-agent signee has seven goals on the season. But the Knights came to life as Nick Roy, in his first game back from an injury, tipped in his own rebound on the power play. Then veteran Phil Kessell fired a shot into traffic that appeared to hit off the stick of Kraken defenseman Carson Soucy to deadlock the game at 2-2.
“Obviously a little bit rusty (in the first period)” said Grubauer. “The guys have been playing unbelievably. They made it really easy for me tonight. Once you make a couple [saves], it seems like everything settles down a little bit. It is just amazing to watch from back there, how everybody is contributing and doing the right thing. There are no selfish plays.”
“(Grubauer) looked confident and comfortable tonight,” said Kraken coach Dave Hakstol. “He made a couple of good saves.”
Grubauer (wearing number 31 on his 31st birthday) held the Knights’ scoreless in the final two periods. His best save came against former Seattle Thunderbird Shea Theodore, who took a pass from Reilly Smith and waltzed through the Kraken defense. But Grubauer made the blocker save.
Burakovsky scored what proved to be the game winner at 5:22. Jamie Oleksiak brought the puck into the offensive zone and centered the puck to Burakovsky for a score. Oleksiak, known as a defensive defenseman, has developed an offensive touch this season with four goals of his own.
Justin Eberle, five goals in his last seven games, notched an insurance goal at 18:46. After taking a lead pass from Matty Beniers, the NHL’s leading scorer among rookies, Eberle knocked home his own rebound over a sprawled Hill. A former San Jose Shark, Hill made his Vegas debut in the Knights win over Seattle back in October.
The third period saw the Kraken play outstanding team defense as Vegas recorded only six shots on goal. Then in the game’s final four minutes, Hill was unable to head to the bench for an extra attacker as Seattle kept the puck in its offensive zone.
“I thought it was a great, great team win today,” said Larsson “There’s lots of big blocks, and that kind of fires up the boys. And Grubi played great.”
The Kraken blocked 13 shots overall, nine by the defense, and Larsson leading the parade with three blocked shots.
Seattle has two more Pacific Division road games upcoming. The Kraken travel to Anaheim tomorrow and to Los Angeles on Tuesday. The Kraken have now won four straight in the division.
- In case you missed it while gobbling your Thanksgiving Day turkey, the Kraken sent their number-one draft choice Shane Wright to the American Hockey League Coachella Valley Firebirds. An NHL team can send a player who has missed five consecutive games to the AHL for up to five games or a maximum of two weeks. Ordinarily a player of Wright’s age (18) has to be returned to his junior team – the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League – if he’s not playing in the NHL. The move paid immediate dividends as Wright scored two goals in a Thanksgiving Day tilt against the Calgary Wranglers. Wright was named the number-one star in a 4-3 Firebirds’ victory. Ironically, Wright would be eligible to return to the Kraken on Dec. 6 when they host the Montreal Canadiens at Climate Pledge Arena. The Canadiens were the team that was expected to draft Wright, and many thought he gave the Canadiens’ table a dirty look when he went up to the podium after being drafted by the Kraken. There have also been rumors that Seattle could loan Wright to the Canadien junior hockey team when the World Junior Tourney commences Dec. 26 in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick..
- In the way-too-early to think about the playoffs department, according to NHL Stats, since the 2005-06 season, 76.3 percent of teams in a playoff position on Thanksgiving Day made the playoffs. But if you like to think ahead, the Kraken’s first two playoff series would be within the Pacific Division with the second-place Kraken facing the third place Los Angeles Kings in the first round. Seattle’s now 5-2-1 in the division.
- Seattle made hockey history last weekend. The United States and Canadien women’s Olympic teams faced off at Climate Pledge Arena Sunday and drew 14,551 fans. That set a new attendance record for women’s hockey in the United States. The US team defeated their arch-rival Canada, 4-2.
- The Knights feature two former Seattle Thunderbirds in their lineup – forward Keegan Kolesar and defenseman Shea Theodore. Both scored in the Kraken’s home opener last month. Kolesar tallied the first Climate Pledge Arena goal of the season, 12 seconds into the contest, won by Vegas, 5-2.
- Last night’s game marked the first time that forward Jonathan Marchessault hasn’t scored in a game against the Kraken. Marchessault, an original Golden Knight, made the scoresheet in the first five games between the Pacific Division rivals/
- You knew last night’s game was a big one. Wayne Newton, the unofficial Mayor of Las Vegas, was in attendance.
S- Ryan Donato (Adam Larsson, Yanni Gourde) 2:38 S- Andre Burakovsky (Larsson, Jaden Schwartz) 8:02 V- Nick Roy (William Karlsson, Shea Theodore) PPG 10:47 V- Phil Kessell (Theodore) 12:50.
S- Burakovsky (Jamie Oleksiak, Justin Schwartz) 5:22. S- Jordan Eberle (Matty Beniers) 18:46
Shots on Goal- Seattle 28, Vegas 22.
Penalty Minutes- Seattle 2, Vegas 4.
Referees- Steve Kozari, Kyle Rehman. Linesmen- Michel Cormier, Ryan Gibbons
Three stars-1. Andre Burakovsky, S. 2. Adam Larsson, S. 3. Shea Theodore, V.