Beniers leads Kraken to sixth straight win

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Seattle Kraken forward Matty Beniers is only 20-years-old. Last night at Buffalo’s KeyBank Center, Beniers’ third period goal broke a 2-2 tie and then he made a bullet pass to teammate Justin Schultz, who scored the game winner in Seattle’s 4-3 victory.

Also, Beniers helped kill a penalty against the Kraken and with Buffalo clawing to get back into the game in the last couple of minutes (they did score one goal with 20 seconds remaining)  Beniers took all the key faceoffs.

By the way, Beniers has now scored in five straight road games, the first rookie to accomplish that feat since Vancouver’s Brock Boeser in the 2017-18 season. Beniers continues to lead all rookies in total points (34) and goals scored (16). Not bad, considering a lot of 20-year-olds are still in school, waiting on tables or delivering pizzas to make a few extra bucks.

Beniers heroics helped the Kraken win their fifth consecutive road game and the team’s now 6-0 since New Year’s Day. The Kraken have now scored four or more goals in six consecutive games a new team record. Last night’s victory improves Seattle’s record to 24-12-4 on the season

“The goal that (Beniers) scored at the start of the third period is indicative of how he plays,” said Kraken coach Dave Hakstol, of the play where Beniers was falling to the ice.. “He’s on top of the blue paint and finds a way to be able to tap one in. He’s got some dynamic ability in open ice and finding plays, but he’s also got that moxie and the grit to go to some of those hard areas.”

While the Sabres had a territorial advantage, the Kraken’s tight defense prevented them from getting a shot on goal in the first nine minutes. But when Buffalo got their first shot it resulted in a goal. Tage Thompson, the NHL’s third-leading scorer, hit linemate Alex Tuch, who fired a shot over the left glove of Seattle goalie Philipp Grubauer.

The Kraken would tie the game before the intermission. With Buffalo’s Casey Middlestadt in the penalty box for holding, Justin Eberle tipped home a drive by teammate Andre Burakovsky. The Kraken were only 1 for 6 on the power play the previous night against Ottawa but scored a mere four seconds into this power play.

“We obviously started a little bit slow,” said Eberle. “I thought we found a way to come back in the first. The second period was much the same. We started well in the third, obviously, and then held on. “

The Sabres would score their only power play goal at 5:12 of the second period. Rasmus Dahlin fired home a shot from the point through a screen of players. Overall, the Kraken had a successful night on the penalty kill, holding Buffalo scoreless on three other power plays. Seattle has been near the bottom of the league in killing penalties (31 out of 32 teams) this season.

However, the Kraken responded again. Schultz brought the puck down the right wing and passed to Yanni Gourde right on top of the net, who got the `dirty goal’ when he deflected a shot by Schultz.

After taking a 4-2 third period lead, Grubauer came up with some big saves to preserve the victory. Playing his first game since Dec. 30 – and he was pulled from that game four minutes in after giving up three goals on four shots to the Edmonton Oilers –Grubauer admitted he was a `little rusty’ at the start of the game. But in the third period, he came up with some big stops. Grubauer robbed Buffalo forward Victor Olefsson twice, once after Thompson hit the post.

“(The Sabres) played well, and they created lots of opportunities,” said Eberle. “Grubi was excellent tonight. He made some huge saves and kept us ahead.”

Tuch, acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in a big trade for Jack Eichel a year ago, scored his second goal of the game with 21.5 seconds left on the clock. But Beniers won the ensuing faceoff and sent the puck into the Buffalo defensive zone.

“We just keep working, that’s all,” Hakstol said. “We’re not quite halfway through the year, these guys work hard together, they care about having success together. Games like this when it’s a back-to-back where it doesn’t look that pretty, it doesn’t look that good but that’s a great win.”

The Kraken face the Boston Bruins tomorrow night in the sixth game of the seven-game road trip, The Bruins have the best record in the NHL, 32-4-4, and amazingly haven’t lost a game at home in regulation this season – 19-0-3.-

Game Notes

  • The Kraken are now 4-0 lifetime against the Sabres. Seattle won the first meeting of the year between the teams, Oct. 25 in Seattle. Forward Daniel Sprong was the number-one star in that game with one goal and two assists. It was Sprong’s second game of the season as he had been a `healthy scratch’ in six of the first seven Kraken games of the season. Sprong’s now a regular and has 13 goals on the season.
  • Last night’s game marked the second matchup between the first and second round selections in the 2021 amateur draft and former Michigan teammates – Owen Power and Matty Beniers. While Beniers was the star of the game, the 6-5 Buffalo defenseman had a good night with five shots on goal.
  • For the second consecutive game, the Kraken faced a goaltender who was a late addition to the lineup. Monday night in Montreal, the Canadiens’ regular starter, Jake Allen, was injured in practice, and Sam Montembeault earned the nod. The Sabres had planned to start Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to start in goal but Luukkonen fell ill on Tuesday morning. Eric Comrie, made his first NHL start since being injured on Nov. 6. A former Tri-City American in the Western Hockey League, Comrie was activated from injured reserve Monday after completing a three-game conditioning rehab at Rochester in the American Hockey League.

Scoring Summary

First period

B- Alex Tuch (Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner) 9:26. S- Jordan Eberle (Andre Burakovsky) PPG 18:53.

Second Period

B- Rasmus Dahlin (Tage Thompson, Jeff Skinner) PPG 5:12. S- Yanni Gourde (Justin Schultz, Oliver Bjorkstrand) 8:59.

Third Period

S- Matty Beniers (Vince Dunn, Burakovsky) 1:08. S- Justin Schultz (Beniers, Jamie Oleksiak) 5:07. B- Tuch (Dahlin, Dylan Cozens) 19:38.

Shots on Goal- Seattle 22, Buffalo 35.

Penalty Minutes- Seattle 10, Buffalo 4.

Referee- Trevor Hanson, Peter MacDougall. Linesmen- Shander Alfonso, Andrew Smith.

Three Stars- 1. Matty Beniers, S.2. Justin Schultz, S.  3. Jordan Eberle, S.

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