The Seattle Kraken started the 2023 calendar year with a 7-0 road trip. After finishing under .500 in the month of February, the Kraken have started March with a 4-0 road trip (okay, the first game of the trip was the last day of February). A road trip that ended in a bang.
After Brandon Tanev’s goal with 2:30 remaining in regulation, Yanni Gourde tallied the game winner at 1:24 of overtime as the Kraken defeated the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, 3-2, last night at Ball Arena.
It might not be hyperbole to call this one of the most memorable victories in the Kraken’s brief history. After being unceremoniously yanked from the Avalanche’s nationally televised game against the Dallas Stars on Saturday (a 7-3 Avalanche loss), Colorado netminder Alexander Georgiev turned aside every Kraken scoring bid for 57 minutes. That included a 5-on-3 power play for Seattle at the beginning of the third period when Georgiev stopped five shots.
The Kraken move ahead of the Edmonton Oilers into third place in the Pacific division with a 36-21-6 record. Seattle trails the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights by four points and the second place Los Angeles Kings by two points, with a game in hand.
“We’re happy with the two points,” said coach Dave Hakstol after the game. “We had to really stay with it, had to get a little bit better throughout the game in the small competitive areas. We wanted to be a little bit better as we went through the game, it’s something we talked about after the first period. (Colorado’s) playing on a back-to-back, so we had to find a way to take advantage of that, just in terms of overall energy as you go through the hockey game.””
The Kraken had four breakaways in the game, by Tanev, Eeli Tolvanen and Jared McCann, and Gourde finally capitalized on one for the game winner. With the Avs in the midst of a line change and Gourde just stepping on the ice, defenseman Vince Dunn hit Gourde with a stretch pass and he beat Georgiev on the stick side. Gourde lit the lamp for his tenth goal, the 13th Kraken to reach double figures this season.
“I didn’t see much of the net honestly. (Georgiev’s) a great goalie, he challenged shots a lot,” Gourde said. “I didn’t see much. Just felt that shooting low blocker was my best option.”
Tanev’s breakaway came late in the second period, and Georgiev just got a glove on it. But ‘Turbo’ would have the last laugh. Nathan MacKinnon, generally considered one of the top four, five players in the NHL, made a costly turnover behind his own net. Jaden Schwartz intercepted MacKinnon’s pass and hit Tanev in the slot for the tying goal.
“Schwartzy makes a great play on the forecheck for the tying goal, Brandon buries it,” said Hakstol. “Then in OT you can’t ask for much more from the guys. We won the opening faceoff and were able to dictate play from there.”
Philipp Grubauer has generally played well in the nets against his former team but hasn’t posted any victories against the Avalanche before last night. Grubauer, who has three wins on the road trip (in four days), stopped 21 shots and was the game’s number-three star.
McKinnon opened the scoring with his 25th goal of the season in the first period. Alex Wennberg, who scored the game winner against Columbus on Friday night, deadlocked the game, 1-1, at 9:52 of the second period when he tipped in a drive by defenseman Will Borgen. Dennis Malgin tallied the go-ahead goal for the Avalanche at 17:52. Cale Makar, who won the Norris Trophy last year presented to the league’s top defenseman, assisted on Malgin’s goal. Makar had missed five games with a concussion before returning to the Colorado lineup on Saturday.
Colorado’s Jack Johnson was penalized for hooking at the end of the second period and his teammate, Mikko Rantanen, also received a two-minute unsportsmanlike penalty for barking at the officials. When the Kraken were unable to capitalized on those penalties and a later Avalanche penalty later in the period, it looked like it wasn’t Seattle’s night. But the team showed resiliency and as an old sports cliché goes, `they snatched a victory out of the hands of defeat.’
The Kraken return to Climate Pledge Arena starting a four-game homestand against the division rival Anaheim Ducks tomorrow night. The Kraken and the Ducks are tied 1-1 in their season series.
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- The Kraken have one game remaining with the LA Kings, April Fools’ Day at Climate Pledge Arena. The Kraken are 3-0 this year against the Kings. Seattle finishes the regular season with a home-and-home series with the division-leading Golden Knights, Apr. 11 in Sin City and Apr. 13 at home. The team’s split their first two games this season.
- The Athletic web site projected the Kraken to win their division at the beginning of February, noting that Seattle has the easiest schedule in the league. Those projections can sometimes blow up in your face, but it’s worth noting that eight teams from the Western Conference make the playoffs. With 19 games remaining, the Kraken are now eight points ahead of Nashville (the ninth place team) and nine points ahead of Calgary, the defending Pacific Division regular-season champs who have now lost five in a row.
- At 21-9-3, the Kraken have the best road record of any team in the Western Conference. Only the Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins from the Eastern Conference have more road points than Seattle this season.
- The only negative in last night’s contest may have been that Jared McCann’s five-game scoring streak (his second of the season) came to an end.
- Andre Burakovsky missed his 13th straight game against his former team but Kraken general manager Ron Francis noted that Burakovsky started skating again on Friday. Burakovsky, who’s been out of the lineup since Feb. 7, was the team’s leading scorer before he went down with a lower-body injury in a game against the New York Islanders. He’s expected back sometime in mid-March.
C- Nathan MacKinnon (Arturi Lehkonen) 9:19.
S- Alex Wennberg (Will Borgen, Justin Schwartz) 9:52. C- Dennis Malgin (Cale Makar, Evan Rodrigues) 17:30.
S- Brandon Tanev (Jaden Schwartz) 17:30.
S- Yanni Gourde (Vince Dunn, Matty Beniers) 1:24.
Shots on Goal- Seattle 35, Colorado 23.
Penalty Minutes- Seattle 4, Colorado 10.
Referees- Chris Lee, Tom Chmielewski. Linesmen- Brandon Gawryletz, Libor Suchanek.
Three Stars- 1. Yanni Gourde, S. 2. Alexander Georgiev, C 3. Philipp Grubauer, S.