The Seattle Kraken got off to a good start yesterday afternoon against the Toronto Maple Leafs. With only 3:47 gone in the game, defenseman Vince Dunn stepped up to take a centering pass from Jordan Eberle and fired home his 11th goal of the season. The score also marked a career-high in points (43) for the Kraken defenseman. But after that, it was all downhill.
The Maple Leafs scored five unanswered goals en route to a 5-1 victory. Ironically, that was the same score as the Kraken’s win against the Leafs last month at Scotia Bank Arena in Toronto. Seattle had a four-goal second period and five different goal scorers. It was the third consecutive loss for the Kraken, who fall to 32-21-6 (fourth place in the Pacific Division). The Leafs are 37-15-8 but still trail the Boston Bruins by 15 points in the Atlantic Division.
Three of Toronto’s goals came in the first period including the opener from Mark Giordano, who was the Kraken’s captain at the start of last season. Giordano was traded to the Leafs at the trading deadline. At the next play stoppage, the Kraken posted a `Welcome Back’ feature that was shown on the twin scoreboard. Between the first two goals of the game, the Kraken’s Oliver Bjorkstrand hit the post.
But after Giordano’s goal, the first period belonged to the visitors. After a period where the Kraken were unable to get the puck out of their defensive zone, John Tavares scored the go-ahead – and actually game winning- goal at 7:06. Then Timothy Liljegren made it 3-1 off a drop pass from Mitch Marner at 12:51. In the last 12 minutes of the first period, the Kraken could only muster one shot on goal and were outshot in the period, 19-7.
“Our response to the first goal against wasn’t good enough against a team with good ability,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “Our energy and the start of our hockey game was good. As I said, we have to have a better response. That goal goes in, we’ve got to be stiffer, not just the next few shifts, with the rest of the period. They put pucks into the scoring area and they’ve got a lot of good skill, but they’ve also got some heavy guys with hard sticks in there and they put pucks inside, For me, there’s some of those struggles where we’re reaching instead of getting in and getting under, being physical at the puck. When you reach against a team like this, you get yourself in trouble.”
Auston Mathews, the league’s reigning Hart Trophy winner given to the league’s Most Valuable Player, scored goals in the second and third period. Mathews, who had 60 goals a year ago, now has 28 this season. After Mathews second-period goal, Kraken goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer was pulled in place of Martin Jones.
“We’re at the time of year where we need to have some saves in tough situations,” said Hakstol. “The first one (Giordano’s goal), obviously we didn’t like. Grubi fought hard, but when the fourth one went in, we needed to make a change to try to push back at that point.”
After the goalie switch, the Kraken appeared to tighten up defensively. They also had a couple of offensive spurts. Seattle had a second period power play where Toronto goalie Ilya Samsonov made some nice stops, but the Kraken never seemed to be in position to get a rebound. Near the end of the second period, the Kraken had Toronto hemmed in their defensive zone where the five Maple Leafs on the ice were unable to get off for a line change in almost two minutes.
The Kraken’s best scoring chance came when Samsonov made a kick save off Jared McCann. The puck ricocheted off the boards and came back to McCann with the goalie out of position. But McCann was at a bad angle and his shot hit the side of the net.
After the game, Seattle’s alternate captain Jordan Eberle was philosophical about the Kraken season. “I think if you were to look at last summer, I think we would have taken this (70 points after 59 games). We have 23 games left and all meaningful and we control our own destiny.”
The Kraken are projected to have one of the easier schedules over the last month-and-a-half of the season. That doesn’t mean a lot considering that the Kraken losing streak started against the lowly San Jose Sharks a week ago. Seattle currently holds on to the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, four points ahead of the Calgary Flames.
Seattle hopes to get back into the victory column on Tuesday night at St. Louis, the start of a three-game road trip. That contest also marks the 11th and final game of the month for the Kraken. They’re 3-6-1 in February, after starting the month of January, 8-0.
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- Kraken goaltender Chris Driedger cleared waivers on Friday allowing the Kraken to send him down to Seattle’s American Hockey League affiliate – the Coachella Valley Firebirds. The league’s 31 other teams had 24 hours to make a claim for Driedger. The 28-year-old appeared in 27 games for Seattle last season after being an expansion selection from the Florida Panthers. He was injured while playing for Team Canada in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship last spring but underwent successful knee surgery over the summer. Driedger was 9-14-1 last season with a 2.96 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. His NHL career record is 30-23-5 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.
- Six minutes into the second period, Mark Giordano blocked a shot by his former Seattle teammate Brandon Tanev. That was the 2,045th blocked shot of Giordano’s NHL career, to become the NHL all-time leader in that department. Giordano came into the game tied with Kris Russell, who played with five NHL teams from 2007-2022. Giordano had another blocked shot later in the game giving him 2,046 blocked shots in 1,084 games. The NHL began tracking blocked shots in 2005-06.
- Calle Jarnkrok is another former Kraken on the Maple Leafs. He was traded to the Calgary Flames for a second-round draft pick last season. The Kraken used that pick as part of a deal to acquire Oliver Bjorkstrand from the Columbus Blue Jackets.
- The final two periods of the game were worked by only three officials. Linesman Kiel Murchison left the game with an injury leaving referees Wes McCauley and Trevor Hanson along with linesman Tommy Hughes to call the remainder of the game.
S- Vince Dunn (Jordan Eberle, Jared McCann) 3:47. T- Mark Giordano (William Nylander, Timothy Liiljegren) 4:58. T- John Taveras (Nylander, Justin Holl) 7:06. T- Liljegren (Mitch Marner, Michael Bunting) 12:51.
T- Auston Mathews (Marner, Bunting) 4:13.
T- Mathews (Marner, Bunting) 12:31.
Shots On Goal- Toronto 33, Seattle 27.
Penalty Minutes- Toronto 4, Seattle 2.
Referees- Wes McCauley, Trevor Hanson. Linesmen- Tommy Hughes, Kiel Murchison.
Three Stars- 1. Auston Mathews. T. 2. Mitch Marner, T. 3. Ilya Samsonov, T.