With a better record on the road than at a home, Seattle Kraken fans may have thought the team’s fortunes would change last night with the start of a four-game road trip at Washington’s Capital One Arena.
However, that wasn’t the case as the Kraken wasted a quality start from goaltender Philip Grubauer. A former Washington Capital Grubauer stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced, but the Kraken couldn’t generate enough offense and dropped a 4-1 decision. The final two Washington goals were deposited into the empty net as the Kraken pulled Grubauer in the final minutes for an extra attacker.
The Kraken (15-8-3) dropped their third consecutive game after a seven-game winning streak. The loss also ended a six-game Seattle road winning streak. The suddenly hot Capitals (13-12-3) have now won three in a row. All three victories have come with Charlie Lindgren between the pipes for Washington. Lindgren, who replaced the injured Darcy Kuemper in net, stopped 24 of 25 shots.
Alex Ovechkin added an empty-net goal with only four seconds showing on the clock. That marked the 796th NHL goal for the `Great Eight’ and moved him within five of Gordie Howe, who is second on the NHL goals list with 801. Wayne Gretzky is first with 894. Ovechkin has three empty-net goals in his past two games and 52 in his NHL career, trailing only Gretzky’s 56. (While recognizing Gretzky and Howe as the all-time leading scorers, the NHL doesn’t count goals scored by Gretzky and Howe in the World Hockey Association).
After defeating the Capitals, 3-2, on the recent Kraken homestand, Grubauer noted that he knew some of Ovechkin’s tendencies as a former teammate, but added, “sometimes you just hope the puck hits you.” Grubauer must have been doing something right, he stopped eight shots by Ovechkin in last night’s game.
The Capitals are currently ranked the third stingiest team in the NHL in giving up goals. Washington plays a 1-3-1 defense where they clog the blue line, preventing teams from bringing the puck into the offensive zone and getting fewer scoring chances.
Washington outshot their guests, 12-6, in the first period, but the Kraken notched the only goal of the period. Morgan Geekie, one of Seattle’s better faceoff men, won the draw over to Karson Kuhlman. While the Capitals’ defense converged on Kuhlman he got the puck back to Adam Larsson, who rifled home his fourth goal of the campaign.
“I thought the start was there today,” Larsson said. “We had a really good first period and they were better the second and the third was kind of even. It was a 2-1 game with a few minutes left. The game was right there for us.”
“The biggest problem was in the second period,” said Kraken coach Dave Hakstol. “We couldn’t find our legs; we couldn’t find any momentum in that period.”
The Capitals were already threatening when they received a big break – a five-minute power play – when Kraken defenseman Jamie Oleksiak picked up a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct for elbowing Washington’s Alexander Aleksiev.in the head. Even if Oleksiak had caught Aleksiev with the shoulder, he probably would have been ejected for a blow to the head.
Aleksiev, a rookie defenseman, had picked up his first NHL point on Anthony Mantha’s goal. Mantha sent the puck home in a scramble in front. The officials checked for a possible kick-in by the Capitals (not a coach’s challenge) but quickly ruled the goal was legal. It was that kind of night for the Kraken.
Seattle was solid on the penalty kill (Ovechkin, who has more power-play goals than any player in history played almost the whole five minutes). The Capitals had only one shot on the power play. Former Kraken, Marcus `Jo Jo’ Johansson shot from close range that Grubauer actually stopped but the puck went off his glove and into the net. The player Johansson was traded for – Daniel Sprong- was in the penalty box serving Oleksiak’s penalty.
The early stages of the third period were the ‘Philipp Grubauer Show.’ Grubi might have made his best save of the year after making a stop on Erik Gustafsson’s long shot, he slid across the front of the net to foil Dylan Strome’s tip-in attempt.
The Kraken threatened to tie the game in the final minutes, and Grubauer was pulled for an extra attacker with just under two minutes remaining. The refs missed a blatant hand pass by Washington defenseman Nick Jensen and moments later Lars Eller hit the empty net. Seattle’s had a few head-scratching calls and non-calls go against them lately, including a phantom holding penalty against Yanni Gourde earlier in the contest.
“(Grubauer) was solid,” Hakstol said. “He gave us a couple big saves in the first and third that came on a couple of flurries.
“I think we had some great moments,” Grubauer said. “I think we’ve got to get back to playing 60 minutes the way we can and making sure we are putting teams on their heels and play our way.”
The Kraken play the second game of their four-game Southeast road trip on Sunday afternoon when they face the Florida Panthers. The Panthers beat the Kraken, 5-1, last Saturday night at Climate Pledge Arena.
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- As expected, the Kraken have loaned their number-one draft pick of 2022, Shane Wright to Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Championships. That move has been rumored on social media since the Kraken sent Wright to the Coachella Valley Firebirds on a rehab assignment (after being a healthy scratch in five consecutive games). The timing of the move isn’t great for Wright, who had his best NHL game on Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens. Wright scored his first NHL goal and had two other scoring chances. Wright appeared comfortable centering a line between Oliver Bjorkstrand and Yanni Gourde, two veterans who see a lot of ice time for Seattle. The 18-year-old could still be sent back to junior hockey as he’s one game shy of playing nine NHL games. A ninth game would make him ineligible to return to his junior team, the Kingston Frontenacs. Kraken draft choices. Jagger Firkus and Ty Nelson both skated with Team Canada over the summer but weren’t selected to the final roster. The World Juniors begin Dec. 26 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Moncton, New Brunswick.
- While playing in the NHL at 18 is a daunting task, Wright was also hurt by the Kraken being fairly healthy on the forward lines this season. For the second consecutive game, Seattle faced a team (Montreal on Tuesday and Washington last night) which is missing several veteran forwards with injuries. The Capitals are now without goaltender Darcy Kuemper, their big off-season free-agent signee, who’s sidelined with a lower body injury. Kuemper started in goal for the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche last season.
- joey Daccord made history for Seattle’s American Hockey League affiliate by recording the first shutout for Coachella Valley on Dec. 2. It took 16 games for the Firebirds, playing their first season in the AHL.
- In two seasons, the Kraken are 2-2 against the Capitals with the home team winning every game.
S- Adam Larsson (Karson Kuhlman, Morgan Geekie) 17:51.
W- Anthony Mantha (Matt Irwin, Alexander Aleksiev) 5:20. W- Marcus Johansson (Sonny Milano, Alex Ovechkin) PPG 13:15.
W- Lars Eller (unassisted) EN 18:54. W- Ovechkin (Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Carlson) EN 19:56.
Shots On Goal- Seattle 26, Washington 38.
Penalty Minutes- Seattle 19, Washington 4
Referees- Kevin Pollack, Jon McIsaac. Linesmen- Derek Nansen, Dan Kelly.
Three Stars- 1. Charlie Lindgren, W. 2. Marcus Johansson, W. 3. Adam Larsson, S.