There was a time in last night’s game between the Seattle Kraken and Calgary Flames at Climate Pledge Arena where it appeared the Kraken might blow the game wide open.
After defenseman Jamie Oleksiak waltzed through the Flames’ defense to give the Kraken a 2-1 lead at the 1:14 mark of the second period, Seattle appeared poised to take over the game. But the Flames’ regrouped and scored the tying goal late in the second period and the game-winner in the third to post a 3-2 victory.
In the off-season, the Flames’ lost Johnny Gaudreau to free-agency and traded Matthew Tkachuk, who appeared to be eventually headed to free agency. Gaudreau and Tkachuk were the team’s two leading scorers and they were replaced in the lineup by free-agent signee Nazim Kadri – a standout in the playoffs for the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche – and Jonathan Huberdeau, one of the players they acquired from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Tkachuk.
With those changes the Flames, who won the Pacific Division a year ago, have been mired in fifth place most of this season. When MacKenzie Weeger, the other player acquired from Florida for Tkachuk, was asked before last night’s game about the Kraken, he noted Seattle would make the playoffs and the Flames wouldn’t.
However, last night it was Huberdeau who scored the game winner at the 12 minute mark of the third period after Kadri tied the contest midway through the second period. Kadri also assisted on the game winner and was selected the contest’s number-one star.
Kadri’s goal came on the power play when he redirected a shot from Elias Lindholm coming down the right wing boards. Lindholm had taken a pass from Rasmus Andersson, who also had two assists. Seattle’s Carson Soucy was in the penalty box for high sticking, which Kraken coach Dave Hakstol noted was a bad penalty for Soucy to take.
Goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer, who some blogs and web sites have labeled `the biggest problem’ with the Kraken, could hardly be blamed for this loss. Grubauer recorded a season-high 41 saves and was selected the number-two star in the game. For Grubauer, who’s struggled for consistency in his time with Seattle, it was his third quality start in his last five starts, albeit the second in a losing cause.
“(Calgary) puts a lot of pucks to the net, so we didn’t give up a lot of opportunities in the first two periods,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said. “We gave up a little bit too much in the third. I look at opportunities, we generated a lot of real good opportunities 5-on-5 in the first two periods of the game, the first half of the game in particular. And then in the third period, we gave up a little bit too much again, because we spent too much time in our defensive zone.”
The Flames outshot the Kraken, 15-5 in the third period. They also had a 13-0 advantage in power play shots. Seattle had eight penalty minutes in the game while Calgary, a more physical team, had only two minutes, While Hakstol noted that Soucy took a bad penalty, the Kraken coach – who practically never criticizes officials- was perturbed with some of the other calls, notably a too many men on the ice penalty against Seattle, even though there were only five Kraken players on the ice when the whistle blew.
Calgary opened the scoring at 6:22 of the first period. Grubauer stopped defenseman Noah Hanifan’s shot from the point but couldn’t cover up. Dillon Dube got a stick on the puck over to linemate Tyler Toffoli who tucked it into the open corner of the net – Toffoli’s fifth goal in his last six games..
Ryan Donato tied the game with his fifth goal in eight games. Jordan Eberle started the play from behind his own net and hit Donato with a pass in front. Calgary netminder Daniel Vladar made an initial stop, but Donato got into position to send home his own rebound.
The first period was an even affair with both teams chalking up 14 shots on goal. After Oleksiak’s score in the second period, Calgary coach Darryl Sutter called a timeout. The timeout didn’t appear to do any good as the Kraken dominated the next four minutes. Brandon Tanev had not one, but two breakaways. Vlader made the save on his first attempt, and Tanev shot wide on the second.
The Kraken pulled Grubauer from the net with just under two minutes remaining, but were unable to notch the tying goal.
“I think the boys worked hard; I think maybe we just didn’t connect on a few plays there and couldn’t bury a couple goals,” Oleksiak said. “So, I think we’ve just got to learn from it, break down the video and be better next game.”
The Kraken fall to 18-11-4 while Calgary moves to 17-13-7. The Flames move ahead of the Kraken by one point – Calgary has 41points and Seattle 40. The Flames have played four more games. The Edmonton Oilers (19-15-2) also have 40 points. The Kraken host the Oilers tomorrow night at Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle’s last game of 2022. The Kraken host the New York Islanders on New Year’s Day before embarking on their longest road trip of the season.
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- While Ryan Donato has had what the players call a `hot stick’ of late, last night’s contest ended a three-game goal scoring streak for Jared McCann. With two assists, Jordan Eberle leads the Kraken with 14 multi-goal games in the club’s two years of existence. McCann’s second with 13 multi-point games.
- The Kraken won the first meeting of the season between the two teams, 5-4. The game marked the only victory (and appearance) by Joey Daccord in the Krakens’ net this season. Matty Beniers tallied the game winner.
- In World Junior competition, the Canadien Juniors defeated an overmatched German team, 10-1, yesterday afternoon. The teams were tied, 1-1, 13 minutes into the first period when the Kraken’s Shane Wright scored a power-play goal to break the tie and Canada never looked back. Wright had a goal and an assist in the game. Two Kraken draftees – forward Jani Nyman and goalie Niklas Kokko compete for Team Finland. Canada also features four members of the Seattle Thunderbirds’ Western Hockey League team – defensemen Kevin Korchinski and Nolan Allen, forward Keiko Schaeffer and goaltender Thomas Milic. Team Canada competes in Group A, along with Czechia, which defeated Canada on Monday, Sweden, Germany, and Austria. Group A plays at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Group B includes Team USA, Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Latvia and they faceoff at Avenir Centre in Moncton, New Brunswick. Russia wasn’t invited to the tournament this year because of that country’s invasion of Ukraine.
- Yet again, the Kraken hosted a team playing its second consecutive road game. The Flames, who have played six straight division games, lost to the Edmonton Oilers, 2-1, on Tuesday night. Seattle hadn’t played in six days, due to the Christmas break. The Flames have 40 or more shots on goal in 12 games this season.
C- Tyler Toffoli (Noah Hanifan, Dillon Dube) 6:22. S- Ryan Donato (Jordan Eberle, Adam Larsson) 16:45,
S- Jamie Oleksiak (Eberle) 1:14. C- Nazem Kadri (Elias Lindholm, Rasmus Andersson) PPG 9:39.
C- Jonathan Huberdeau (Andersson, Kadri) 12:00.
Shots on Goal- Calgary 44, Seattle 31
Penalty Minutes- Calgary 2, Seattle 8.
Referee- Graham Skilliter, Reid Anderson. Linesmen- Travis Grawlytz, Julien Fournier.
Three Stars- 1. Nazim Kadri, C. 2. Philipp Grubauer, S. 3. Jordan Eberle, S.