A few years ago, Eeli Tolvanen was ranked the top prospect in the Nashville Predators’ organization. Things changed drastically this season. Tolvanen became the forgotten man in Music City and was even a healthy scratch in several games.
The Seattle Kraken picked up Tolvanen off the waiver wire in mid-December and yesterday afternoon Tolvanen played a key role in a 7-2 Kraken victory which may have done mortal damage to the Predators chances of making the playoffs. Seattle improves to 40-24-8 on the season, while the Predators fall to 36-27-8, five points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the final playoff slot in the Western Conference.
Tolvanen recorded his 16th and 17th goals in the first two periods (two of Tolvanen’s goals came with Nashville), before the Kraken scored four third period goals to send the Predator fans to an early exit at Bridgetown Arena. For his efforts, Tolvanen was selected the number-one star of the game. Matty Beniers also wore the hero’s crown as he scored his milestone 20th goal of the season (first in 12 games) and became the first rookie in the league to reach the 50 point mark.
With the victory, the Kraken set a new record for a second-year NHL team. Seattle now has 88 standings points. The Kraken had 60 points in their inaugural season in 2021-22. The 28-point increase is the largest in NHL history between a team’s first and second season. They also took a big step towards solidifying their first ever playoff berth. Seattle’s the first wild card team in the Western Conference, seven points ahead of the Calgary Flames and eight ahead of the Predators. Nashville picked up one standings point against the Kraken on Thursday night with a 2-1 overtime victory.
We wanted to challenge ourselves to be a little bit better than we were (Thursday), “ said Kraken coach Dave Hakstol. “Just elevate a little bit in competitive areas of the game. We had a really good response. Obviously, the start was good, and every time they would get one back, we had a response.”
Daniel Sprong opened the scoring for the Kraken, notching a goal in his third consecutive game. Ryan Donato, who seems to play well whenever he returns to the lineup after being a healthy scratch, set up the goal. After taking a hit along the boards, Donato carried the puck to the net and Sprong scored on the rebound. The Predators asked for a review, claiming goalie interference on Donato, but the goal was upheld. Nashville received a delay-of-game penalty when the ruling was upheld but the Kraken were unable to score on the power play.
Seattle did add a power play goal later in the first period. Tolvanen fired home a slap shot off a pass from Jared McCann, the Kraken’s first power play in five games.
“The power-play goal was a big one for us,” said Hakstol. “(The power play) hasn’t been going well. It was a great screen by [Alex] Wennberg in front and great timing on the shot by Tolvy. We’ve come to count on him.”
“I feel like the last couple of games we struggled a little bit getting shots on net and getting scoring chances,” Tolvanen said. “Today we did a pretty good job on the power play. We got shots through and we got some traffic, too.”
Seattle also set an new team record by holding the Predators to only one shot in the second period. But Nashville got two shots early in the second period. Philip Tomasino deflected Matt Duchene’s drive from the point. Philipp Grubauer kicked that one out, but the rebound came to defenseman Tyson Barrie streaking down the left side and he fired into a partially open net.
The Predators had a chance to tie the game midway thru the second period when Tomasino came in on a breakaway. But Grubauer made a sliding save, knocking the puck out of harm’s way with his right pad.
“If you think back to the second period, halfway through the period, they didn’t have a ton of chances,” said Hakstol. “But they had the breakaway and that’s a big point in the hockey game in terms of momentum.”
An even bigger play game with three minutes remaining. On a stretch pass from the Kraken defensive zone, Saros came 20 feet out of his net to clear the puck away. Unfortunately for the Predator netminder, he put the puck right on Tolvanen’s stick, who fired into the empty net.
Duchene made it 3-2 in the opening minute of the third period. In a seven minute span, Adam Larsson, Beniers and McCann (a team-leading 35th) all scored to turn a close game into a rout. Oliver Bjorkstrand finished the scoring with a highlight goal. On a scramble in front, Bjorkstrand wristed a shot home with his back to the net.
The Kraken finish a four-game road trip tomorrow night when they face the Minnesota Wild, currently in second place in the Central Division of the Western Conference. Seattle returns to Climate Pledge Arena on Thursday night for their final meeting of the season with the Anaheim Ducks.
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- The Vegas Knights defeated the Edmonton Oilers, 4-3, last night In overtime. The third-place Oilers pick up one point in the standings and lead the Kraken by three points.
- The Kraken sent Joey Daccord, who’d been the starting goalie in Seattle’s previous two games, back to Coachella Valley before the start of yesterday’s game. Because Daccord was an `emergency recall’ with Philip Grubauer sidelined with a non-COVID related illness, Daccord’s salary would have been added to the Kraken’s salary cap if he played another game.
- Despite yesterday’s loss, Juuse Saros leads the NHL in quality starts with 35 and goalie “steals” with eight, including Thursday. However, he hasn’t always played well against Seattle. In the Predators game at Seattle on Nov. 8, Saros was pulled after surrendering four goals on six shots in the first period.
- The Predators unveiled a statue for their longtime goalie Pekka Rinna before the game. The 2017-18 Vezina Trophy winner played 15 seasons for Nashville and is its all-time leader in games played (683), wins (369), goals-against average (2.43), shutouts (60).
S- Daniel Sprong (Ryan Donato, Brandon Tanev) 3:14. S- Eeli Tolvanen (Jared McCann, Oliver Bjorkstrand) 17:37.
N- Tyson Barrie (Philip Tomasino, Matt Duchene) 1:43. S- Eeli Tolvanen (unassisted) 17:16.
N- Duchene (Barrie, Tomasino) :53. S- Adam Larsson (McCann, Vince Dunn) 3:37. S- Matty Beniers (Dunn) 8:12. S- McCann (unassisted) 10:47. S- Bjorkstrand (Gourde) 12:35.
Shots on Goal- Seattle 39, Nashville 8.
Penalty Minutes- Seattle 8, Nashville 10.
Referee- Wes McCauley, Eric Furlatt. Linesman- Jonny Murray, Ben O’Quinn.
Three Stars- 1. Eeli Tolvanen, S. 2. Jared McCann, S. 3. Oliver Bjorkstrand, S.