The last time the Seattle Kraken played the Los Angeles Kings, the game ended in an incredible 9-8 Seattle victory. Defensive play was only a rumor in that contest. But when the Kraken and the Kings took the ice last night at Climate Pledge Arena, the teams looked determined to not have a repeat performance of that wild-and-wooly affair.
Each team had only six shots on goal in the first period and LA held a narrow 1-0 lead after two periods, the polar opposite of the last meeting between the teams. The game was marked by tight checking and strong positional play. The scoring picked up in the third period as the Kings posted a 3-1 victory, salvaging one win in the four meetings between the Pacific Division rivals.
Seattle goes to 41-26-8 on the season and hold on to the first of two wild card slots in the Western Conference with seven games remaining in the regular season. However, the three teams below the Kraken in the standings won their most recent games. The Winnipeg Jets, who hold the second wild card slot, defeated Detroit, 6-2, on Friday night and now trail the Kraken by three points, 90-87, in the standings. Calgary (85 points, 5-4 winners over Vancouver on Friday) and Nashville (84 points, 6-1 winners over St. Louis, last night) are valiantly fighting the uphill fight to make the playoffs.
“It’s a real disappointing loss, but in saying that, this group knows what it takes (to win),” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “In the first two periods, we didn’t win enough of those first pucks to give ourselves an offensive opportunity in the O-zone. Our compete level was good.”
“That (9-8) game was a one-off,” said goaltender Martin Jones, who picked up the win in that game. “This was a close game. Both teams checked well. This time of the year with (teams playing for) the playoffs there’s not a lot of room out there. We had a good push in the third period. One bounce here, one bounce there, it could have been different.”
Trailing 2-0, the Kraken attempted to take control, outshooting their visitors, 13-5 in the third period. Seattle netted home its third power play goal in as many games. Daniel Sprong fired from the point and Oliver Bjorkstrand intercepted a clearing pass by the Los Angeles defense, and sent it home. It was one of the few times the Kraken were able to create traffic in front of the net.
“When you get chances in a tight checking game you have to bury them,” said Bjorkstrand, who scored his 18th goal of the season. “I thought we were able to collect a lot more offense in the third period.”
The Kraken had a chance to tie the game at 52 seconds of the third period, when Eeli Tolvanen came in on a breakway but Los Angeles goalkeeper Pheonix Copley made a pad save on Tolvanen’s low shot. The Kraken outshot the Kings, 26-19 in the game, and Copley made five saves in the first two minutes of the third period. Copley started the season as the Kings’ third string goalie behind Jonathan Quick and Cal Peterson. The Kraken had good success against that duo in their three wins against the Kings earlier this season, but neither is still with the team.
“In the third period, we got some shots off a rush,” said Hakstol. “(Los Angeles) doesn’t usually give up a lot of shots on the rush.”
The King’s first goal came midway through the game. LA’s Sean Durzi wound up being in the right place at the right time. After bringing the puck down the left wing, Durzi crashed into the boards behind the net. But when he rejoined the play, he was unmarked and in perfect position to fire home a lead pass from Kevin Fiala.
While the Kraken began the third period with a sense of urgency, the Kings’ Carl Grundstrom scored what proved to be the game winner. Brandon Tanev was bringing the puck out of his defensive zone when Grundstrom came in from behind and stole the puck. That led to Grundstrom’s unassisted goal and a tough break for Tanev, who was playing in his 400th NHL game.
Kevin Fiala, the Kings’ leading scorer, finished things off with an empty net goal in the final minute. It was Fiala’s first game back from an undisclosed injury.
Despite the loss, Hakstol was pleased with the overall performance. “This is the level we need to compete at. Our game was solid.”
The Kraken host the Arizona Coyotes tomorrow night. Amazingly, the Kraken play the lowly Coyotes three times in the next eight days. Seattle won’t play another team with a winning record (or in the playoffs) until the final two games of the season when they square off against the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights. The Kraken could face the Knights or the Central Division leading Minnesota Wild in the first round of the playoffs. Vegas defeated Minnesota, 4-1, last night and have a four-point lead over the Wild.
- According to a report from Geoff Baker in the Seattle Times, Andre Burakovsky who was set to return to the Kraken lineup in mid-March, suffered a setback in his recovery. Seattle still hopes that Burakovsky, who was the team’s leading scorer when he suffered a lower-body injury on Feb. 11 will be ready for the playoffs.
- The Kraken have compiled a 12-9-2 record against Pacific Division teams this season and have beaten each of their division rivals at least once. Seattle has three divisional games remaining: at Vancouver Tuesday and a home-and-home series with Vegas on April 11 and 13.
- The Kraken, who aren’t known as a physical team, outhit the Kings, 24-13. Defenseman Adam Larsson had an active game with seven hits. Defenseman Will Borgen and Jamie Oleksiak along with forward Jared McCann, had three hits. That bodes well for the Kraken, as the playoffs are more physical- and intense.
- The Kings rebounded from two consecutive loses to Calgary and Edmonton earlier in the week. Previously, Los Angeles had a twelve game point streak, going 10-0-2. That was a new team record for the squad which began play in 1967. With those two losses, LA dropped behind the Edmonton Oilers into third place in the Pacific Division.
LA- Sean Durzi (Alex Iafallo, Kevin Fiala) 11:45.
LA- Carl Grundstrom (unassisted) 5:22. S- Oliver Bjorkstrand (Darren Sprong, Justin Schultz) PPG, 8:25. LA- Kevin Fiala (Alex Iafallo) EN 19:14.
Shots on Goal- Los Angeles 19, Seattle 26.
Penalty Minutes- Los Angeles 4, Seattle 2.
Referees- Chris Lee, Kelly Sutherland. Linesmen- Trent Knorr, Tommy Hughes.
Three Stars- 1. Carl Grundstrom, LA. 2. Oliver Bjorkstrand, S. 3. Pheonix Copley, LA.