After a one-sided, 7-2, loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night, Seattle Kraken’s alternate captain Yanni Gourde said the team needed to play `with more grit.’ Heading into last night’s New Year’s Day contest against the New York Islanders, alternate captain Jordan Eberle thought the team had its best practice the previous day.
Gourde and Eberle are considered the team leaders by those close to the Kraken, and it turned out they knew what they were talking about. The Kraken dominated the visiting Islanders as they were dominated two nights previous, posting a 4-1 victory. The game was never close, as Seattle outshot its’ guests, 35-19.
The Kraken improve their record to 19-12-4 before embarking on a seven-game road trip their longest of the season. The Islanders fall to 21-15-4. While Seattle had lost three in a row prior to last night’s game, New York had entered the game riding a three-game winning streak.
“We got back to where we wanted to be,” said Kraken coach Dave Hakstol. “That’s the bottom line. Our specialty teams were big. We followed through on our checking. Those are all the little pieces.”
Specialty teams includes the power play and killing penalties. Eeli Tolvanen, who the Kraken picked up on waivers from the Nashville Predators a couple of weeks ago, was known as power play specialist scoring six PPG’s for the Predators a couple of seasons ago. Last night in his Kraken debut, Tolvanen scored on the power play what proved to be the game-winning goal.
“It’s been a while since I’ve played,” said Tolvanen, who had two goals for Nashville earlier in the season while seeing limited playing time. “It felt good (to score). I’ve been working hard to get back into game shape. I haven’t played in a month and a half.”
Against the Oilers, the Kraken trailed 3-0, five minutes into the game. Last night, the Islanders didn’t have a shot on goal in the first nine minutes. Defenseman Adam Larssen, also an alternate captain, opened the scoring for Seattle. Known as a defensive defenseman, Larssen, who had assists in the five previous games, fired home his fifth goal of the season.
On a dump-in, Daniel Sprong beat Islander defenseman Alexander Romanov to the puck behind the Islander net. Sprong passed across to linemate Ryan Donato, who curled around the net and hit Larsson breaking to the net.
Despite being outshot, 13-6, in the first period, the Islanders would go to the intermission with a 1-1 tie thanks to a familiar face. Mathew Barzal, a star with the Seattle Thunderbirds junior team of the Western Hockey League, picked up his 100th career goal in his 400th NHL game at 17:30. Barzal’s goal came on a nifty `tape to tape’ pass from linemate Casey Cizikas.
In the second period with Islander rookie Aatu Raty serving his first NHL penalty, Tolvanen took a lead pass from defenseman Vince Dunn (two assists) and showed off his elite shot with a dart from the right circle beating New York goalie Ilya Sorokin. Tolvanen’s the 21st Kraken player to score a goal this season.
Prior to their loss against Edmonton, the Kraken lost games to Vancouver and Calgary where they blew a lead. So, Oliver Bjorkstrand’s insurance goal was a big one for the Kraken. Bjorkstrand started the play when his hit in the left corner took out two Islander players. Bjorkstrand then cut to the front of the net where he deflected home a drive from the point by defenseman Jamie Oleksiak.
Bjorkstrand now has five goals on the season. Acquired from Columbus in the off-season, Bjorkstrand had 28 goals a season ago. The Kraken hope he can pick up his goal-scoring pace in the second half of the season.
Martin Jones in the Kraken net didn’t have the busiest of nights, but he stopped 17 out of 18 Islander shots. Brandon Tanev, who celebrated his 31st birthday on New Year’s Eve, then finished things off with an empty net goal in the closing minutes.
“We played the right way tonight,” said Donato, who killed penalties for the first time this season with Morgan Geekie out of the lineup. “Sometimes you can over-complicate things. We came off a good practice and with the five o’clock starting time we didn’t have a morning skate. So, we came in with fresh legs.”
Donato also noted with the Kraken reaching the midway point of the season, all of their games are `must wins.” With 42 points, Seattle’s tied for fourth place (and a playoff spot) with Edmonton and only one point behind third place Calgary. However, the Kraken have played three fewer games than their Pacific Division rivals.
Seattle has a `revenge’ game with the Oilers tomorrow night in Edmonton. The Kraken then head to the Northeast for their only road games of the season in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Buffalo and Boston. The Kraken play the Oilers three times in less than a month as they’ll make a return visit to Edmonton on Jan. 17.
- At every NHL contest the three stars of the game are selected by local media. While it’s a hockey tradition, the selections can sometimes be head scratchers – when the Kraken defeated the Los Angeles Kings in their memorable 9-8 shootout -Matty Beniers was the only Kraken selected, as the number two star. Sometimes there’s home cooking in the selections. But just for fun, Cascadiasports.net compiled a list of Kraken players who’ve been stars of the game this season (including last night). Giving players three points for number-one star, two for number two, and one for number three, Beniers and Andre Burakovsky are the team leaders with 14 points each. However, Beniers’ recognition has come in December while Burakovsky was a standout in November. Point totals for the rest of the team include – Yanni Gourde 7, Jared McCann 7, Jordan Eberle 6, Martin Jones 6, Adam Larsson 6, Darren Sprong 6, Philipp Grubauer 5, Brandon Tanev 5, Will Borgen 3, Ryan Donato 3, Morgan Geekie 3, Karson Kuhlman 3, Adam Larsson 3, Jaden Schwartz 3, Justin Schultz 3, Alex Wennberg 3, Eeli Tolvanen 2, Oliver Bjorkstrand 2, Jaden Schwartz 1, Shane Wright 1. There’s a bit of a built in bias towards goal scorers of course. Vince Dunn’s the only Kraken regular not to earn three-star recognition even though Dunn and Adam Larsson are Seattle’s top defensive pair. When goalie Martin Jones was on a hot streak in November there were games he was credited with a `quality start,’ but wasn’t picked as one of the game’s three stars.
- The game featured a clock malfunction in the third period. When the clock reached the seven minute mark it suddenly went down to one minute – something you might expect on Halloween, not New Year’s Day. Fans not paying attention to the clock were probably baffled why Islander goalkeeper Ilya Sorokin wasn’t heading to the bench for an extra attacker with time running out. The game did stop when the clock reached 0:00, but the PA announcer informed the crowd that the game wasn’t over, there was a clock malfunction.
- Round Robin play has been completed in the World Junior Championship in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Team Canada defeated Sweden, 5-1, with Kraken first-round draft pick Shane Wright assisting on the game-winning goal. The 18-year-old Kraken forward recorded at least one point in each of the four round-robin games. Canada finished second in Group A and advances to play Slovakia in today’s quarterfinals.
- Kraken 2022 second-rounder Jani Nyman finished round robin play with two goals and an assist. Nyman’s Finland team lost its first game on Saturday to Team USA and face Sweden today.
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S- Adam Larsson (Ryan Donato, Daniel Sprong) 9:53. NY- Mathew Barzal (Casey Cizikas , Josh Bailey) 17:30.
S- Eelie Tolvanen (Vince Dunn, Jared McCann) 7:58 S- Oliver Bjorkstrand (Jamie Oleksiak, Yanni Gourde) 17:04.
S- Brandon Tanev (Gourde, Dunn) empty net, 19:25.
Shots on Goal- New York 19, Seattle 35.
Penalty Minutes- New York 4, Seattle 4.
Referees- Kelly Sutherland, Cody Beach. Linesmen- Scott Cherrey, Liber Suchanek.
Three Stars- 1, Adam Larssen, S. 2. Eeli Tolvanen, S 3. Oliver Bjorkstrand S.