The Seattle Kraken seemed like they were in control of last night’s game with the Anaheim Ducks but when the visitors scored late in the second period, the Kraken were only ahead 2-1 on an Anaheim team that’s not going anywhere except to a lottery for the number-one amateur draft pick.
But the Kraken regrouped in the third period and went on to post a 4-1 victory last night at Climate Pledge Arena. The victory was huge, as the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames, the two clubs chasing the Kraken for a final Western Conference playoff berth, both scored surprising victories early this week to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. Seattle improves to 40-25-8 on the season and are the higher-seeded of the two wild card teams to make the playoffs.
Jaden Schwartz and Matty Beniers, each had a goal and an assist to pace the Seattle victory. Daniel Sprong, the Kraken’s third-leading goal scorer despite only playing 58 of a possible 74 games, notched the `breathing room’ goal at 15:42 of the third period with the Kraken on the power play”. It was a `goal scorer’s goal’ as Sprong came off the left wall, moved to the center and fired home when he saw an opening for his 20th goal of the season. Alex Wennberg added an empty-netter to ice the victory.
“I keep busting (Sprong’s) hump about the defensive play,” said Seattle coach Dave Hakstol. “I’m gonna keep hanging on to both the defensive things and being good with his detail. And he’s gonna continue contributing in the way that he has (scoring goals)”
All three of the Kraken scores were of the highlight variety. The Kraken got off to a slow start, not generating hardly any offense (even with one power play) until Jaden Schwartz scored at the 7:56 mark. Schwartz took a stretch pass from defenseman Will Borgen on the fly and fired a 20-footer past Anaheim goalkeeper Lukas Donskol.
“[Borgen] read the play nice and passed it through, stick, hard right on the tape,” Schwartz said. “I had a lot of speed, so I was hoping he saw me, and he did a really good job of finding me.”
Beniers, voted the game’s number-one star, made it 2-0 at 10:26. After taking a pass from linemate Jared McCann, Beniers made a veteran move, faking a shot and getting Donskol to commit. Beniers skated around the goalie, and while his initial shot hit the side of the net, he still had time to send the rebound home.
In his first full season in the NHL, Beniers is still the favorite to win the Calder Trophy awarded to the league’s top rookie. However, he recently went 12 games without scoring a goal. Beniers, who teammate and mentor Jordan Eberle calls a `cerebral’ player (he was accepted at Harvard but never attended because the Ivy League dropped sports due to COVID-19 for a year), said he wasn’t worried during his goal-scoring draught. ”Sometimes the puck just doesn’t go (in the net). But you just keep working hard.”
At times, the Kraken dominated the rest of the game. Moments after Beniers scored, Morgan Geekie almost made it 3-0. Geekie had an open net but couldn’t control a bouncing puck. Still, it was starting to look like a game where the Kraken could name the final score. But the second period was quieter, and there was some concern by the Kraken faithful when Anaheim’s Mason McTavish scored late in the second period.
“We settled down in the third,” Hakstol said. “We needed a couple real good saves from Martin Jones to do that. Penalty kill did its job, power play did its job in extending the lead in the third period, and that’s it. It closes out a good two points for us, and that’s a real positive night.”
Jones, starting his first game between the pipes for the Kraken since Mar. 13, had big saves on Max Comtois and Frank Vatrano early in the third period to maintain the Kraken lead.
“The two points are big,’ said Schwartz. “If you look at the standings, teams are trying to move up and you don’t want to leave it to the last two games of the year to have to win to get in (the Kraken’s last two games are a home-and-home series with the Pacific Division leading Vegas Golden Knights).”
The Kraken host the Los Angeles Kings, second place in the Pacific Division, tomorrow night at Climate Pledge. The Kraken are 3-0 against the Kings this season. On Monday, the Kraken host the Arizona Coyotes- who they play three times in eight days- and travel to Vancouver to the finish the season series with the Canucks on Tuesday. Like the Ducks, the Coyotes and Canucks are both well out of the playoff hunt.
- While Matty Beniers leads all rookie point scorers, he now has 52, Dallas rookie Wyatt Johnston briefly passed Beniers in goals. With last night’s score, Beniers and Johnston have 31 goals, and Shane Pinto of the Ottawa Senators, has 20.
- Earlier this week, the Nashville Predators defeated the league-leading Boston Bruins, 2-1. Each team has played 73 games to date. Calgary ended Los Angeles’ 12-game point streak with a 2-1 win at home. At this point, the Flames and Predators might have a better chance of catching the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild-card slot. Seattle has 90 points with eight games remaining, Winnipeg has 85 with seven games left, Calgary’s 83 points, seven games left, and Nashville’s 82 with eight games remaining.
- The Ducks, who were without their two leading scorers – Trevor Zegras, out with an injury, and Troy Terry, whose wife is expecting their first child- fall to 23-42-10. Anaheim has now lost six games in a row where they have been outscored 25-9. Anaheim gives up an average of roughly four goals per game and have allowed five or more goals 29 times in 74 games.
- The Kraken game and the Seattle Mariners’ season opener against the Cleveland Guardians, at the other end of downtown, started at roughly the same time. While the Kraken had one more run/point (albeit an empty-netter) the Mariners held their opponents to one less run in a 3-0 victory. The Mariner game ended sooner (unlikely in previous years) because of the pitch clock.
S- Jaden Schwartz (Will Borgen, Jamie Oleksiak) 7:56. S- Matty Beniers (Jared McCann) 10:37.
A-Brock McGinn (Derek Grant, Jakob Silfverberg) 18:44.
S- Daniel Sprong (Schwartz, Beniers) PPG, 15:41. S- Alex Wennberg (unassisted) EN 17:45.
Shots on Goal- Anaheim 19, Seattle 39.
Penalty Minutes- Anaheim 6, Seattle 6.
Referees- Chris Lee, Peter MacDougall. Linesman- Bevan Mills, Julian Fournier Three Stars- 1. Matty Beniers. 2. Jaden Schwartz 3. Daniel Sprong