Four different Canadien cities and four victories. That’s how the Seattle Kraken started the 2023 year, their latest victim being the Montreal Canadiens last night at the Bell Centre, 4-0.
So far, the longest road trip of their season (seven games) has been a resounding success for the Kraken, who play tonight in Buffalo. Seattle has defeated the four Canadien teams on the trip- Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal- outscoring those clubs, 22-7. With a home win against the New York Islanders on New Year’s Day, the Kraken have won five straight overall.
Seattle’s Eeli Tolvanen, Danel Sprong, Vince Dunn and Matty Beniers all had a goal and an assist in the game. At the other end, goaltender Martin Jones stopped all 21 shots he faced. Jones has been the winning goaltender in 19 of the Kraken’s 23 victories.
Jones’ performance last night was a far cry from his previous game against Montreal, last month at Climate Pledge Arena when he allowed four goals on eight shots (two in a seven-second span) in the first two periods. Montreal won that game, 4-2. Last night’s game was the second shutout of the season and 27th in the NHL for Jones, who has started each game during the winning streak.
“(The Canadiens)can be a dangerous team,” Jones said. “They’ve definitely got a lot of skill up front, and they’re pretty dangerous off the rush, so we just had to play smart, make sure we were keeping guys in front of us, and we did a good job of that.”
The Kraken, 23-12-4 overall, decided the game early, scoring three first period goals. If anyone was expecting a letdown after four straight victories, the Kraken were so dominant in the opening period, they were outshooting the Canadiens 18-2 in the first 15 minutes.
“We had a great start to the game,” Coach Dave Hakstol said. “We played a really good first period. (That’s) the way that you want to come out on the road and be able to build the lead. We played a really good first period.”
The Kraken opened the scoring at 7:20 of the first period (they had outshot Montreal, 9-1, at that point). Vince Dunn had brought the puck out of his zone and eventually got it back from forward Daniel Sprong. Dunn fed a pass to Tolvanen, who fired home his third goal as a Kraken. Ironically, all three of Tolvanen’s goals have been set up by Dunn.
“I think for me and [Tolvanen], we find each other,” Dunn said. “You know when I give him the puck, I just tell him to shoot. He’s got a great shot, so he’s making my life look easy.”
Sprong, who grew up in Montreal, made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 10:01. Sprong took a cross-ice pass from Andrei Burakovsky ( what announcers call a tape-to-tape pass) and he drilled a shot from the left circle. Sprong, who’s scored in two straight games has 13 goals on the season.
Dunn finished the first period with his third goal in as many games (ten points in seven games). Tolvanen drew the assist as he passed from behind his net to Dunn at that point- low to high- and Dunn who has a blistering shot, fired a shot past goaltender Sam Montembeault. In recent games, Dunn has been a standout for the Kraken.
“He’s doing a lot of the little things,” Hakstol said. “When you look at the way he’s getting us out of the zone, he’s defending well, but he’s really using his feet. He’s playing fast and on our exits, whether that’s a breakout or D zone exit, he’s doing a really good job down low and that’s a credit to him.”
The second period was scoreless and the only goal in the third period was an empty-netter by rookie All-Star Matty Beniers. After the Canadiens had pulled Montembault for an extra attacker, Seattle’s Jordan Eberle knocked down defenseman Arber Xhekaj and the loose puck went over to Berniers, who went unimpeded to the empty net.
Montreal, which has now lost eight of its last nine games, did show some fight in the third period. They came out hitting and the Canadiens’ Jake Evans fought Ryan Donato, the first Kraken fight in the last 12 games. Montreal fans must have been wondering where this Canadiens’ team was in the first period as the team got off to a `sleepy’ start.
“It’s always going to be a grind when you come out of the first period that way,” Hakstol said. “You know there’s going to be a push from the other side, and there was, but we did a good job finishing out, closing out the game.”
While not severely tested, Jones stopped Juraj Slafkovsky, last year’s number-one draft pick, on a breakaway, and made a nice stop, close-in, off Josh Anderson in the second frame.
“Goaltending has been great all year for us,” Dunn said. “That’s really important. . . .This year, we definitely turned the page and we really can count on (our goalies) to make the saves that we need.”
The Kraken are in action tonight against the Buffalo Sabres and on Thursday travel to Boston to face a Bruins’ team that has the best record in the NHL. Boston has not lost a regulation game at home all season, although they have lost in overtime. Kraken fans may recall that the team ended a long Florida Panthers’ winning streak last season.
- When the Kraken announced over the weekend that they were sending Shane Wright back to junior hockey for the remainder of the season there was speculation that Wright’s Ontario Hockey League team, the Kingston Frontenacs, would trade the Kraken’s highly regarded number-one draft pick to a team in playoff contention. Yesterday it was announced that Kingston had traded Wright and a conditional 14th-round pick to the Windsor Spitfires. In exchange, the Frontenacs receive forward Ethan Miedema, defenseman Gavin McCarthy and seven draft picks. The Spitfires are expected to have a long playoff run.
- Despite not having a player in the top 50 of NHL leading scorers, the Kraken have ten players with at least 20 points. Seattle has outscored its opponents 26-8 during their winning streak. The Kraken have 50 standing points through their first 39 games, an improvement of 26 points from Jan. 9 of last year, when the Kraken were 10-19-4 (24 points).
- Montreal starting goalkeeper Jake Allen, once rumored to be a Kraken draft pick (he was eventually protected in the draft) was sidelined with an upper-body injury. Allen was in the nets when the Canadiens defeated the Kraken in Seattle. Clayden Primeau backed up Sam Montembeault after he was recalled from Laval of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis.
S- Eeli Toivanen (Vince Dunn, Daniel Sprong) 6:54. S- Sprong (Andrei Burakovsky, Matty Beniers) PPG, 10:01. S- Dunn (Toivanen, Yanni Gourde) 14:20.
S- Matty Beniers (Jordan Eberle) empty net, 18:57.
Shots on Goal- Seattle 41, Montreal 21.
Penalty Minutes- Seattle 9, Montreal 27.
Referees- Chris Rooney, Brandon Blandina. Linesmen- Kyle Flemington, Ben O’Quinn.
Three Stars- 1. Eeli Tolvanen, S. 2. Daniel Sprong, S. 3. Vince Dunn, S.