While the Seattle Kraken has been in existence for only a year and a half there was a historic feel to last night’s 4-3 overtime victory against the New Jersey Devils last night at Climate Pledge Arena.
Thanks to Andre Burakovsky’s overtime goal and the Vegas Golden Knights’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Seattle moves into first place for the first time in the team’s two-year history. The Kraken and the Knights sit atop the Pacific Division with 56 points apiece but the Kraken (27-14-4 overall) have two fewer losses and a higher winning percentage. The Kraken also tied their win total of a year ago in their 45th game. Last year, they won 27 games in an 82-game season.
Individually, Vince Dunn added to his team record of picking up a point in nine consecutive games. Dunn set up the winning goal, when he hustled for the puck behind the Jersey net and sent a drop pass to Burakovsky coming off the bench. Burakovsky, who scored an overtime game-winner for the Colorado Avalanche in last year’s Stanley Cup finals, headed towards the net, then circled back to get a clearer shot on goal and fired a 20-footer past Devils’ goalkeeper Mackenzie Blackwood.
“Sounds good,” said Burakovsky, when informed the Kraken were in first place. “It was good to get the (game winning) goal, but it doesn’t matter who scores. It’s been a good year.”
Then there was defenseman Cale Fleury who made a little bit of personal history. Often a `healthy scratch as the Kraken’s seventh defenseman, Fleury played his seventh game of the season- in the lineup for the injured Justin Schultz –and picked up his first assist of the season on Ryan Donato’s second goal of the game in the second period. Although an original expansion draft pick of the Kraken, the assist marked Fleury’s first point in a Kraken uniform. With a goal in the 2019-20 season against the Devils while playing for the Montreal Canadiens. Fleury joked after the game that the Devils, “must be my favorite team to play against.”
The game was also a bounce back game in a couple of different ways. After starting the calendar year with eight straight wins (seven on the road) the Kraken dropped their next two games. The schedule makers didn’t do the Kraken any favors as their two losses came in a Monday afternoon Martin Luther King Day game at home after playing in Chicago on Saturday night. Then it was back on the road to Edmonton in a game where the Oilers dominated in the latter stages of the game.
“I thought we played quick again tonight,” said Seattle coach Dave Hakstol.. “We had our energy back, physically and mentally we were on it, and you could feel that right from the start of the hockey game, and that carried through.”
The Kraken also faced adversity in the course of last night’s game. Donato staked the Kraken to a 2-0 with goals in each of the first two periods. The first goal came off a shot from the left circle off a lead pass from defenseman Will Borgen. The second came off a give-and-go with linemate Jared McCann. Seattle had a chance to go up 3-0 when Jordan Eberle’s breakaway shot hit the top crossbar.
Moments later, the Devils cut the lead, 2-1. Defenseman Damon Severson stepped up, took a drop pass from forward Jesper Bratt. and wristed a shot past Seattle goalie Martin Jones who was screened on the play. Fortunately for the Kraken, Jones had come up with big saves on Severson and Erik Haula earlier in the period. Haula would get his goal in the third period. With the Devils’ shorthanded, Haula beat the Kraken to a loose puck, skated down the left side and scored.
Then it was Brandon Tanev’s chance for redemption. Shortly before Haula’s goal, Tanev took a cross pass from Morgan Geekie and was unable to tuck it home from the right side. Tanev would get a second chance thanks to a hustle play from Yanni Gourde. The diminutive (5-9) center was crunched by two Jersey defensemen behind his own net but was able to center a pass to Donato in front. Donato sent a cross to Tenev and this time `Turbo’ fired it home.
“You have to be able to respond and we were able to do that tonight,” said Hakstol. “We gave up a shorty (shorthanded goal) but we showed resiliency. Overall, this is a good performance, an important two points for us and our guys should feel good. Everybody contributed to the win.”
The Kraken would need one final comeback. When the Devils pulled Blackwood for an extra attacker, Nico Hischier tied the game with 1:14 remaining. Hischier scored off a lead pass from the Devils’ leading scorer Jack Hughes, who had a quiet night. But any Kraken disappointment didn’t last too long, as Burakovsky would soon add the game winner.
“We’ve got these last couple of games before the All-Star break, so ending on the right note is definitely huge,” Donato said. “We’re playing tough teams and every point matters”
The Kraken face the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night. The Kraken defeated the Avalanche in Colorado, 3-2, on Oct. 21,
- The Kraken have won five of their last six overtime games after losing their first three OT’s of the season. In their previous overtime tilt, the Kraken lost to the Vancouver Canucks in Seattle’s only shootout of the season.
- Considering the team’s only two years old, there aren’t that many former Seattle Krakens in the league. One former Kraken, forward Nathian Bastian was back in the Devils’ lineup last night after missing 22 games with a shoulder injury. Bastien only played six minutes but picked up the first penalty of the game, a rare kneeing penalty. Vitek Vanecek, the backup goalie in last night’s contest, was an expansion pick by the Kraken, but he was traded back to the Washington Capitals, his original team, when Seattle signed Philipp Grubauer as a free agent.
- The final nominees for the 2023 NHL All-Star game as selected by the fans, were announced last night. The game takes place at the FLA Live Arena, Feb. 4. Joining Seattle’s Matty Beniers on the Pacific Division team are forward Leon Draisaitl and his Edmonton Oilers teammate, goalie Stuart Skinner along with Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat. Draisaitl will be making his fourth All-Star Game appearance. It will be the first for Skinner and second for Horvat. In the Central Division Nathan McKinnon fifth) Mikki Rantanen (second) were selected from the Colorado Avalanche along with Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebucyk. In the East, David Pastrnak (third appearance) from the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy represented the Atlantic Division and from the Metropolitan Division, Rangers forward Artemi Panarin and defenseman Adam Fox. All three players are making their first All-Star game appearance.
- The All-Star Game will feature a three-game tournament, played in a 3-on-3 format. Each of the four teams will include nine skaters and two goalies. Rod Brind ‘Amour of the Carolina Hurricanes (Metropolitan Division), Jim Montgomery of the Boston Bruins (Atlantic Division), Peter DeBoer of the Dallas Stars (Central Division) and Bruce Cassidy of the Vegas Golden Knights (Pacific Division) were selected as coaches.
- This Sunday is the start of the next Lunar New Year. To celebrate, the Kraken’s Saturday’s matchup against Colorado will be the first annual Lunar New Year Game. The night is part of the NHL and NHL Players’ Association “Hockey is for Everyone” (HIFE) initiative advocating for diversity and inclusion in the sport. As part of the festivities, the Kraken will debut the first-ever Lunar New Year warmup jersey to be worn by Kraken players pre-game and then auctioned off to benefit One Roof Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena.
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