The Seattle Kraken began an important road trip last night, starting with three games against teams they needed to beat, and should beat, if the team plays up to its potential. First stop: St. Louis. The result- a hard-fought 5-3 Kraken victory at Enterprise Arena. Morgan Geekie scored twice, his first goals since Jan. 28 and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak drilled home the game winner in the third period.
The win improves the Kraken record to 33-21-6 and moves them into a third place tie with the Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific Division. Perhaps more importantly, the Kraken pick up one point on the Calgary Flames, who are chasing Seattle for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference. The Flames, who trail the Kraken and Oilers by five points, did pick up one standings point in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins that saw Calgary record 57 (yes, 57) shots on goal.
“We stuck with our game plan” said Geekie. “This is the way we’ve played in the past. We went off the rails for a few games. We tried to play at the goal line. We’re a heavy team and we moved the puck well.”
St. Louis falls to 26-29-6 on the season, but showed some fight. Especially for a team that looks like it’s holding a yard sale, three of their best players- Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko and Ivan Barbashev- have been traded in the last week leading up to the NHL trade deadline. And with six straight losses, the Blues probably aren’t heading to the playoffs.
While the Kraken ended up outshooting their guests, 26-25, the Blues had a shot advantage much of the game. St. Louis had an 8-1 advantage early in the game but the Kraken recorded the first goal. Adam Larsson cleared the puck out of his defensive zone, ahead to Daniel Sprong. Sprong’s cross pass hit Geekie, who whistled the shot home. Sprong, who’s been a healthy scratch the past two games, scored a goal and was the number-three star in the Kraken’s 5-2 win against St. Louis on Dec. 20.
For the seventh consecutive game, the Kraken didn’t allow a power play goal. However, one of Seattle’s few mistakes came when Robert Thomas scored a short-handed goal at 5:11 of the second period. The Kraken almost added a power play goal on the same penalty. Just as the Blues returned to full strength, Jared McCann scored from just above the left circle. It was McCann’s 27th goal of the season, tying his career-high, when he led the Kraken in goal scoring a year ago.
“Our specialty teams did the job,” said Seattle coach Dave Hakstol. “Our power play doesn’t get credit with the goal but that’s a power play goal. So that was a big goal for us. PK did a good job. We don’t get out of the second period the way we did without doing a good job on the three PK’s, plus the one at a critical time in the third period. So those are all good positive things”
The Blues would tie the game again at 9:03. Brayden Schenn, whose brother Luke Schenn was traded by Vancouver to Toronto earlier in the day, rifled home a 25-footer that caught goalkeeper Martin Jones unaware. Jones gave up a couple of `soft’ goals but made some big saves, especially near the end of the second period on another St. Louis power play.
The Kraken would take a 3-2 lead to intermission when Justin Schultz’s shot from the point went off Sprong’s skate but landed on the stick of Geekie, who sent home his second goal of the game. Seattle increased their lead to 4-2 when Oleksiak’s shot from the point beat Blues’ goalie Jordan Binnington. But Pavel Buchnevich scored at 14:23 to make things interesting.
“(St. Louis) kept pushing,” McCann said. “You’ve got to show respect to them. They competed, they battled, but we were able to shut them down. We can’t let off the gas.”
With Binnington pulled and an extra attacker, the Blues mounted the pressure. But Yanni Gourde broke up St. Louis defenseman Torey Krug, Eeli Tolvanen chipped the puck ahead to Brandon Tanev, who hit the empty net for the 5-3 victory.
Everybody is chipping in,” Hakstol said. “When you look at a win tonight. I don’t know who you give credit to. I love (Gourde’s) effort and his line tonight. I believe he led the way for us in the compete and effort category, but we had a lot of guys that stepped up and made plays at the right time.
“It’s gonna be a grind every single game from now on,” said McCann. “We’ve got to go to play like the underdogs every single day. We’ve got to put in the effort every single night. We’ve got to out-battle teams and out-compete teams.”
The Kraken play the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night, another team that may be unloading some veteran players at the trade deadline
- Kraken general manager Ron Francis was interviewed by ROOT Sports and admitted the possibility that Seattle won’t make any moves at the trade deadline. Last year, the Kraken made numerous moves, mostly trading away players for draft choices. While not giving a specific date, Francis expects Andre Burakovsky to be back in the lineup by mid-March. Burakovsky’s been out of the lineup since Feb. with a lower body injury. At that time, Burakovsky was one of the Kraken’s leading scorers with 13 goals and 39 points..
- Goaltender Chris Driedger, coming back from knee surgery, made his 2022-23 debut, had a successful return with the Coachella Valley Firebirds, Monday night. Driedger stopped 30 of 33 shots as the Kraken’s American Hockey League affiliate defeated the San Jose Barracudas, 4-3, in overtime.
- Geekie’s two goals last night accounted for the Kraken forwards first multi-goal since Mar. 11, 2021 as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.
S- Morgan Geekie (Daniel Sprong, Adam Larsson) 9:30.
STL- Robert Thomas (Pavel Buchnevich) SH 5:11. S- Jared McCann 27 (Vince Dunn, Eeli Tolvanen) 6:57. STL- Brandon Saad (Nick Leddy, Justin Faulk) 9:03. S- Geekie (Sprong, Justin Schultz) 14:29.
S- Jamie Oleksiak (Ryan Donato, Eeli Tolvanen) 9:46. STL-Buchnevich (Thomas) 14:29. S- Brandon Tanev (Tolvanen, Yanni Gourde) EN 19:53.
Shots on Goal- Seattle 26, St. Louis 25.
Penalty Minutes- Seattle 8, St. Louis 4.
Referees- Garret Rank, Pierre Lambert. Linesmen- Scott Cherry, Ben O’Quinn.