The Edmonton Oilers boast the top scorer on the planet in Connor McDavid, who’s made a shambles of the NHL scoring race with 134 points in 70 games this season. But the Oilers showed they have plenty of other offensive firepower in Saturday afternoon’s 6-4 victory over the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena.
There’s also Evander Kane, who missed over two months with a nasty gash on his arm from an errant skate. He recorded a three-goal hat trick for the Oilers. Leon Draisaitl and Mattias Ekholm were also multiple-point scorers and Zach Hyman recorded his milestone 30th goal of the season. The Oilers improve to 39-23-8 on the season. Third-place Edmonton now leads Seattle by three points (38-24-7) in the Pacific Division standings.
The pre-game buzz entering this contest, correctly labeled this game, the most important in the Kraken’s brief history. The top three teams from the Pacific and Central Divisions make the playoffs along with the next two teams with the best record. The Kraken stand in the first wild card position with 83 points. Winnipeg (81 points) beat Nashville in to stay in the second wild-card spot. The Predators have 76 points with two games in hand on the Kraken. The Kraken and the Predators square off Thursday night and Saturday afternoon (morning Seattle time) in Nashville.
“Our team played a good hockey game today,” said Seattle coach Dave Hakstol. “It’s an even hockey game, we worked extremely hard, especially on the offensive side of the puck. We ground for our offensive opportunities for the majority of the 60 minutes. “
For big parts of the game, I thought we played well,” said Oliver Bjorkstrand, who scored his 16th goal of the season. “Obviously, when you play a team like that, they’re good at scoring goals. The details have to be there. You’ve got to bear down.”
The Kraken had the first three shots of the game, but Kane came down the ice and wristed a shot between the legs of Philipp Grubauer to give Edmonton a 1-0 lead. Thanks to Vince Dunn, who added to his team-record twelve straight games with a point, the Kraken tied the game at 6:34. Dunn was originally credited with the goal after Matty Beniers’ fed the Kraken defenseman with a pass in the slot. But Jaden Schwartz, standing to the side of the net, tapped it home. The official scorer changed the goal to Schwartz before the start of the second period.
The Oilers took a 2-1 lead to the intermission, despite Seattle outshooting their guests, 14-9. Kailer Yamamoto scored off a nice pass from teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins at 10:16.
Kane made it 3-1 on the first shot of the second period. McDavid who had a `quiet’ first period, picked up his first point of the day, racking up the primary assist on the goal. But the Kraken responded three minutes later when Jordan Eberle’s wrister went through the legs of Edmonton goalie Stuart Skinner and into the net.
Moments later, during a television timeout, Grubauer skated to the bench and down the runway to the Kraken dressing room. The Kraken reported that Grubauer was suffering a `non-Covid illness’ and was apparently feeling worse as the game progressed. The Kraken also lost forward John Hayden with what was called a lower-body injury. Hayden, who’s in the lineup for his physicality, challenged Edmonton tough guy Kim Kostin to a fight early in the second period. Hayden landed one punch and then fell to the ice awkwardly.
Martin Jones entered the game cold and he allowed a goal on his first shot. That was Hyman’s goal. But the Kraken would again pick up the last goal of the period. Yanni Gourde made a perfect `tape-to-tape’ pass to Bjorkstrand that he sent home to make it a 4-3 game.
Kane fired home a 20-footer for his third goal of the contest at 10:20. There were enough Oiler fans in the crowd, that a few hats were thrown on the ice, the tradition when a player gets three goals in a game – that’s why they call it a hat trick. McDavid would finish his day with his 58th goal of the season, on a power play at 16:10. Draisaitl, who’s also over 100 points on the season, assisted on the final two goals. Eeli Tolvanen would finish the scoring for Seattle in the final minute, off a pass from Morgan Geekie.
“I think we just gave them too many high-quality chances,” Eberle said. “We had our chances. I think, for the most part, we were skating with them and creating plays. (The loss) is frustrating. You see the standings and where we’re at. Obviously we’re fighting until the end. It’s a big road trip for us coming up.”
“I think we played well,” said Hakstol. “That’s what makes it a frustrating loss.”
The Kraken begin a four-game road trip on Tuesday night when they travel to Dallas to face the Central Division leading Stars. The Kraken will be looking to avenge two losses against Dallas in their most recent homestand – although one of the losses came in overtime so Seattle did earn a point in the standings.
- The Coachella Valley Firebirds, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Kraken, are headed to the playoffs in their premier season. The Firebirds clinched a berth in the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night with a 4-1 victory over the Iowa Wild. In their first season of play in the AHL, the Firebirds own the best record in the league at 39-11-4-2 (.750).
- The Kraken are now 1-5-1 in their last seven home games. Seattle returns to Climate Pledge on Mar. 30 for a divisional game with the Anaheim Ducks.
- Evander Kane, who’s an Afro-American, was voted the game’s number-one star on a day when the NHL’s United by Hockey Mobile Museum appeared just outside the main entrance of Climate Pledge Arena. 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 walls of the mobile truck featured photos of Black, Native American, Hispanic and Women players who’ve made their mark in hockey. This was Kane’s first game with multiple goals since returning from wrist surgery after suffering a cut on the wrist by a skate blade Nov. 8 at Tampa Bay. He missed 31 games recovering from the surgery and has scored five goals in the 14 games played since he returned.
- There were enough Oilers fans in the stands to try and start a `let’s go Oilers’ chant a couple of times. Both times they were drowned out by a Seattle chant of `let’s go Kraken.’ It added to the playoff atmosphere of the game.
E- Evander Kane (Zach Hyman, Darnell Nurse) 1:33. S- Jaden Schwartz (Vince Dunn, Matty Beniers) 6:24. E- Kailer Yamamato (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl) 16:36.
E- Kane (Connor McDavid, Mattias Ekholm) :43. S- Jordan Eberle (Jared McCann, Adam Larsson) 4:07. E- Hyman (McDavid, Ekholm) 7:28. S- Oliver Bjorkstand (Yanni Gourde, Jamie Oleksiak) 14:18.
E- Kane (Leon Draisaitl, Brett Kulak) 10:20. E- McDavid (Ekholm, Draisaitl) PPG 16:10. S- Eeli Tolvanen (Morgan Geekie, Jamie Oleksiak) 19:12.
Shots on Goal- Edmonton 23, Seattle 37.
Penalty Minutes- Edmonton 11, Seattle 13.
Referees- Tom Chmielewski, Furman South. Linesman- Trent Knorr, Dan Kelly.