It’s been a season of firsts for the Seattle Kraken. While it won’t show up in any statistical data, the Kraken’s 2-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche last night at Climate Pledge Arena was another first. For the first time in their brief history, the Kraken played a game that had a’ playoff atmosphere,’ a term bandied about more in hockey than in any other sport.
In a contest played with loads of intensity, Colorado’s Nathan McKinnon was the only player to score in a shootout, giving the defending Stanley Cup champions their fifth consecutive victory. In a contest that saw both teams missing some key personnel, the two squads finished three periods and a five-minute overtime period, tied at one goal apiece and an identical total of 27 shots on goal. Seattle drops to 27-5-5 and falls a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights for first place in the Pacific Division. The Avalanche, who got off to a slow start, are 25-17-3.
“It was a battle for 65-plus minutes,” said Kraken coach Dave Hakstol. “It’s disappointing we didn’t win the shootout and get the extra point. In terms of out effort and our work level throughout the game was good. Obviously, you’d like to execute better at some points, but I was proud of the guys with our effort tonight.”
Certainly, the sellout crowd, which included a surprising amount of (loud) Avalanche fans, got their money’s worth. The contest was even in almost every statistical category. Besides shots on goal, the teams were also even in penalty minutes (4), and the Kraken had a narrow advantage in faceoffs, 25-22, and hits, 26-24. Both teams were shorthanded as the Kraken were missing Andre Burakovsky, Jaden Schwartz and Justin Schultz. Avs’ players sidelined with injuries included their captain, Gabriel Landskog, their best player, Cale Makae, and regular defensemen Josh Manson and Bo Byram.
Seattle dominated early as the Kraken outshot their guests, 6-0, in the first two minutes of the game. The Kraken also had the best scoring chance early. Yanni Gourde, coming out of the penalty box after a questionable goaltender interference penalty, pounced on the puck and went in on a breakaway, but he shot wide.
Colorado scored the first goal of the game at 8:18. Actually it took three shots to do it. Jacob MacDonald drove a shot from the point that Grubauer kicked out. The goalie also foiled Arturi Lehkonen’s rebound attempt from in close. But the second rebound came to Alex Newhook standing directly in front of the net and he sent it home. But before and after that goal, Grubauer was flawless against the Avalanche team he played for prior to the Kraken’s existence.
“The lineup’s a little different, it’s been two years,” said Grubauer, who hasn’t been rewarded with victories in recent games where he’s played well. “But they still have some guys, I know their tendencies from practices. Our defense did a good job (not screening) and letting me see the puck.”
The Kraken would respond a little over a minute later, with a `response’ goal. Ryan Donato, who had two goals and an assist in the Kraken’s 4-3 overtime win on Thursday, picked up where he left off. He came off the bench, intercepted an errant clearing pass by the Avs, went down the left wing and fired home his 11th goal of the season.
Weekend crowds always seem especially lively at Climate Pledge and Matty Beniers really brought the crowd to life late in the second period. Grubauer came out of his net to thwart an original shot but Colorado’s Ben Meyers took a shot at the unprotected right side of the net. Out of nowhere, Beniers swooped in and clear the puck away. At 20 years old, Beniers is already getting a reputation as a smart player who’s `in the right place at the right time.’
The Kraken were outshot 7-5 in the third period but had some glorious scoring chances. Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who played a strong physical game for the Kraken hit the post on his drive with 4:47 left in regulation. Earlier in the period, Brandon Tanev and John Hayden came in on a two-on-one. Tanev slid a pass across to Hayden, but his linemate shot wide of the net. Thus, Hayden missed the chance of netting the game winner in his first game as a Kraken despite playing a grand total of seven seconds in the first period.
“I’ve been in this job before,” said Hayden, of being inserted into the lineup with a new team at the last minute. “All the players were super welcoming. I got a sense of the team and the crowd playing here in the pre-season. I found out pretty late I was in the lineup (former Avalanche Andre Burakovsky was a late scratch), but they told me to stay ready.”
Hayden, with his fourth NHL team, started the year with the Coachella Valley Firebirds, the Kraken’s AHL affiliate. He was recalled as a `healthy scratch’ two games ago. He played regularly in the final two periods, throwing a big bodycheck and battling Colorado’s big defenseman, Kurtis McDermott, for position in front of the net.
The Kraken had the territorial advantage in overtime, but McKinnon had the only shot on goal. Grubauer kicked out that shot and Colorado’s Sam Girard also had a good scoring opportunity that he shot wide of the net. McKinnon, one of the league’s best pure scorers, didn’t miss in the overtime with a `five hole shot’ that went through the legs of Grubauer. Daniel Sprong, the Kraken’s third shooter had to score to keep the shootout alive. But Colorado keeper Pavel Francouz made the save on Sprong’s wrist shot. For their efforts, Francouz was selected the game’s number-two star and Grubauer was the third star.
The Kraken are now idle until Wednesday night when they host the Vancouver Canucks. Frustratingly, the Kraken have yet to beat their Pacific Northwest rivals in six games. Seattle players should appreciate the three off days as Seattle has played 12 games in 21 days, their busiest streak of the season.
“We need some down time,” said Hakstol. “We need to recharge our batteries.”
- Philipp Grubauer continues to play well against his former team but doesn’t have a win to show for it in two outings. Grubauer was injured with 17 minutes remaining in the Kraken’s first game against Colorado, Oct. 21. . He was replaced by Martin Jones, who was credited as the winning goaltender in a 3-2 Seattle victory. Karson Kuhlman, scored the game-winner in that contest, his only goal for the Kraken before being claimed on waivers by the Winnipeg Jets.
- Last night’s game ended a nice-game scoring streak by Seattle defenseman Vince Dunn, a Kraken record.
- Colorado leads the all-time series between the two teams, 3-2.
- The Kraken are 0-2 in shootouts this season. They’ve won the last four games that were decided in the five-minute overtime period;
C- Alex Newhook (Artturi Lehkonen, Jacob MacDonald) 8:18. S- Ryan Donato (unassisted), 9:26.
S- Ryan Donato SAVE. C- Evan Rodrigues SAVE. S- Jordan Eberle MISS. C- Nathan McKinnon SCORE. S- Daniel Sprong SAVE
Shots on Goal- Colorado 27, Seattle 27.
Penalty Minutes- Colorado 4, Seattle 4.
Referees- Jean Hebert, Jon McIsaac. Linesman- Brad Kovachik, Ryan Daisy.
Three Stars- 1. Nathan McKinnon, C. 2. Pascal Francouz C. 3. Philipp Grubauer, S.