Like the song says, the Seattle Kraken `needed a hero,’ and who better than Vince Dunn, the Kraken’s best player in the last dozen games. Dunn, who’s now earned a point in a team-record 11 straight games, waited until 1:58 of the overtime period to score his 13th goal of the season, giving Seattle a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks last night at the Shark Tank.
After Oliver Bjorkstrand brought the puck out of the Kraken zone to regroup, he sent a lead pass to Dunn, who came down the right wing and wristed a shot past San Jose goalkeeper James Riemer. Dunn fired just as linemate Yanni Gourde cut in front of the net, possibly distracting the goalkeeper.
“[Dunn] had a will to him tonight that you can see in his confidence,” said Seattle coach Dave Hakstol. “Offensively, with the puck at times he controlled some of the play. It’s maybe fitting he was the guy that was able to make the play on a winning goal. It’s not pretty but it’s a real good play by him to pull [the puck} and shoot it through a screen in that spot.”
“Yeah, very important right now,” said Dunn, of his game-winning score. “They don’t always have to be pretty, but we just have to make sure we find a way. Every point really matters right now. So that’s really big for the team to get back on track.”
The Kraken (38-23-7) desperately needed a victory over the lowly Sharks – already eliminated from the playoffs with a mere 19 victories- after three losses (and only one standings point) in their previous three home games. With the victory, the Kraken stay a point behind the third-place Edmonton Oilers in the Pacific Division.
The top three teams in each division automatically qualify for the playoffs and the Kraken are now situated as the first wild-card team to qualify for the playoffs. Seattle’s seven points ahead of Calgary, which defeated division-leading Vegas last night, and eight points ahead of the Nashville Predators from the Central Division of the Western Conference, the first two teams out of the playoffs.
For two periods, Riemer and Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer matched each other save-for-save (both were credited with quality starts, Grubauer’s 13th of the season) and the teams came to the second period intermission deadlocked 0-0.
When SJ defenseman William Ekland scored on a penalty shot a minute into the third period- Ekland was fouled by the Kraken’s Jaden Schwartz as he went in on a breakaway to be rewarded with a penalty shot-Kraken fans had to start wondering if their team was about to lose two straight games- shutouts no less- to the cellar-dwelling Sharks.
San Jose shutout the Kraken, 4-0, on Presidents’ Day after Seattle scored eight goals against the Sharks in a 8-5 Thanksgiving Eve contest at Climate Pledge Arena.
Finally, at the 7:38 mark of the third period, Bjorkstrand scored on a beautiful stretch pass by Gourde that must have been about 100 feet. Gourde was adjacent to his own net when he hit Bjorkstrand with a pass, who then beat Riemer with a shot over the goalies’ right glove and into the net. Bjorkstrand’s goal ended a streak of 149:35 scoreless minutes turned in by Reimer dating back to Feb. 27, 2022. Heading into last night’s game, Hakstol reunited the line of Bjorkstrand, Gourde and Eeli Tolvanen, one of Seattle’s most effective lines this season.
“Those three have been really good anytime they’ve been together,” said Hakstol. “The energy that they play with, they’ve consistently generated offense. Tonight they did that again. That (scoring) play is just a great read by the two guys. (Bjorkstrand and Gourde).”
“We knew it was going to be that kind of game that we’d have to push it through 60 minutes,” said Hakstol. We did wobble a little bit when we gave up the first goal. But the next six, seven minutes ‘Grubi’ was really good for us. He just stabilized us, took care of things, settled things down until we were able to get the equalizer.”
And Grubauer added, “I’m not really worried about [the Eklund goal] because we had some great chances and it was just a matter of time where we find the back of the net. ‘Bjorky’ did a pretty good job of it.”
Looking ahead, tomorrow’s matinee game with the Edmonton Oilers may be the latest `most important game in Kraken history.’ A victory by the Kraken would leapfrog them into third place, while an Edmonton win would gave the Oilers a three-point cushion against the Kraken. Seattle then starts a four-game road trip in Dallas on Tuesday night. The Kraken will be looking for some revenge in that game as the Stars defeated the Kraken twice (once in overtime) last weekend in Seattle.
- Shane Wright, The Kraken’s number-one draft pick in his last summer’s amateur draft. has been on fire since joining the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). After serving as captain of the Canadien junior team, Wright has scored 12 goals and 27 points in 14 games for the Spitfires. This is Wright’s third season in the OHL.
- Since the 2023 calendar year began, Jared McCann has been one of the league’s top goal scorers with 23 goals in that span. With 33 goals overall, McCann became the first Kraken to reach 50 goals in the team’s history. He had a time-high 27 goals a year ago. According to the Hockey Writers website, McCann has a 20.7 percent shooting percentage, higher than sharpshooters Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Kirill Kaprizov and David Pastrnak. While he didn’t score- McCann had six shots on goal in yesterday’s contest.
- So far this season, Vince Dunn has set new career highs in assists (44) and points (56) while also tying his previous career high in goals with 13. He also became the first player to hit 70 assists with the franchise and is just nine points away from 100 for his Kraken career.
- Since the beginning of March, the Kraken are allowing 26.4 shots per game, but giving up 3.43 goals per game. Generally, an NHL goaltender shouldn’t give up more than one goal for every ten shots, that’s why elite goalies are expected to have a save percentage over .900. While Kraken goalies, Philipp Grubauer and Martin Jones have had hot streaks this season, both are still below .900 overall in save percentage.
- Fans attending Saturday’s game with the Edmonton Oilers can also attend the NHL’s United by Hockey Mobile Museum between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. The United by Hockey Museum is an extension of the league’s “Hockey is for Everyone” program and an interactive way to learn more about diversity and representation in the sport. The mobile museum also includes artifacts of players who are groundbreakers in hockey via heritage and gender. Plus, there will be displays about the next generation of young stars, NHL Officials, broadcasters, and women in the game. Kraken radio voice Everett Fitzhugh is also featured.
SJ- William Eklund (penalty shot) 1:58. S- Oliver Bjorkstrand (Yanni Gourde, Adam Larsson) 7:03.
S- Vince Dunn (Bjorkstrand, Jared McCann) 1:58.
Shots on Goal- Seattle 32, San Jose 32.
Penalty Minutes- Seattle 6, San Jose 8.
Referees- Tom Chmielewski, Furman South. Linesmen- Ryan Gibbons, Dan Kelly.
Three Stars- 1. William Eklund, SJ. 2. James Reimer, SJ. 3. Vince Dunn, S.