The Seattle Kraken won the games they needed to win.
The Kraken took a big step towards making the playoffs in their second year of existence with back-to-back wins against the Arizona Coyotes and last night they came from behind against the Vancouver Canucks, 5-2 at Rogers Arena. After falling behind 2-0, the Kraken took over the game scoring a short-handed goal, a power-play goal and an empty netter in the final minute. Jordan Eberle’s goal at 10:40 of the second period proved to be the game winner.
Seattle can clinch a playoff berth with another win over the Coyotes on Thursday night. The Kraken improve to 43-26-8. They lead the Calgary Flames, who lost to Chicago last night, 4-3, by seven points, and the Nashville Predators by eight points. The Predators are valiantly fighting for a playoff spot as they defeated the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights in a shootout.
Monday night at Climate Pledge Arena, the Kraken defeated the hapless Arizona Coyotes, (hapless as in having the second to worst record in the NHL), 8-1. Jared McCann had two goals in that contest and a total of 17 players recorded a point in the contest, including goaltender Philip Grubauer, who had an assist.
Last night, the Kraken had the first four shots on goal, but spotted Vancouver a 2-0 lead. Elias Petterson scored on the first shot of the game with a world class deke around Seattle defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. The Canucks added another goal on a nice play by Conor Garland. The Vancouver forward looked like he was going to shoot from the slot but instead sent a lead pass to linemate Anthony Beauvillier. Standing to the right side of the net, Beauvillier tucked the puck into the corner past goalie Martin Jones.
“It seemed like we were playing pretty sound, pretty solid, and all of a sudden we’re down by two,” said Seattle coach Dave Hakstol. “But if you’re playing well, you still have a chance to dig yourself out of a hole.”
That’s exactly what the Kraken did starting with Yanni Gourde’s late first period goal. Gourde’s shot from the left circle actually went through the legs of Vancouver’s Nils Amin, beating goalie Collin Delia. Jesper Froden, out of the lineup the past five games, assisted on the goal. Froden was in the lineup in place of Oliver Bjorkstrand, who was back in Seattle as his wife Jill gave birth to their first child.
“You play the right way, eventually things are going to turn,” said Gourde. “I didn’t think we had a very good start, but we weren’t that bad either, and then when we started playing a little bit faster on the forecheck, recovering pucks, those little plays, we look better and we look faster.”
“Gourdo;s goal at the end of the first period was huge,” said Eberle. “We liked our first period, and then we came back. A good 60 minutes.”
The Kraken started to take over the game in the second period, despite picking up a couple of early penalties. Seattle was two men short (5 on 3) when Vince Dunn came out of the penalty box and went in on a breakaway that was stopped by Delia. But moments later, Brandon Tanev stole a puck from Garland at the blue line. Tanev went flying down the ice, and while he had Jared McCann to his right on a 2-on-1 break, he elected to shoot and beat Delia with a wrist shot.
“You’re out there to do a job and when you get a short-handed scoring opportunity, you want to bear down and put it away,” said Tanev.
That set the stage for Eberle’s game winner. Matty Beniers and Jaden Schwartz did the `heavy lifting,’ battling for the puck along the boards. Schwartz sent the pass to Eberle in front, but the official scorers opted not to hand out any Kraken assists as the puck hit two Vancouver players before reaching Eberle.
Schwartz and McCann however, would both score their own goals. Schwartz notched his 20th goal of the season on a power play goal with four minutes remaining in the second period. Daniel Sprong fired a shot from the point, that was deflected off Eberle’s stick and landed at the feet of Schwartz who sent it home. The Kraken have now scored power play goals in four consecutive games.
In the final period, the Canucks, who are mostly hoping to end a disastrous season as quickly as possible, could only muster two shots on goal. Alex Wennberg received a double minor for high sticking, and Vancouver had no shots on goal on a four minute power play.
Vancouver coach Rick Tocchet still pulled his goalie with a couple of minutes left, hoping to generate some offense. But it was Beniers, who found the open net with a shot from about 145 feet away. Beniers also made a big defensive play earlier in the period. J.T. Miller came in on a partial breakaway, Vancouver’s best scoring chance of the period, but Beniers on the backcheck, lifted Miller’s stick so he couldn’t get the shot off.
“That’s one of those plays where you can overcome a (team) mistake,” said Hakstol. “Our goals have been spread out . Our guys have the confidence that they can go out and score.”
The Kraken return to Climate Pledge Arena tomorrow night for a rematch with the Arizona Coyotes. Seattle hosts Chicago on Saturday night, another team out of the playoffs and in the running for the number-one draft pick.
- Matty Beniers has drawn only one two-minute penalty this season but has drawn 22 penalties from opposing players. Besides being the favorite for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the league’s top rookie, Beniers would have to be considered a candidate for the Lady Byng Trophy – the most gentlemanly player- awarded to the front-line player with the fewest penalty minutes.
- With 94 standing points, the Kraken are 34 points ahead of last season when they compiled a 27-49-6 record, good for 60 points. That marks the greatest improvement by an NHL team in its second season. They’ve also surpassed the Vegas Golden Knights, who had 93 points in their second season (after recording 109 points in their initial season and making the Stanley Cup finals). Also, since the current playoff format has been implemented, no team hasn’t made the playoffs with that many points The Dallas Stars (2011-2012) had 92 points and missed the playoffs by one point.
- The Canucks along with being geographic rivals, have been a tough team for the Kraken to beat. Seattle’s 2-6 lifetime against their Northern neighbors. But the Kraken now own consecutive victories over Vancouver, beating them 6-1, Jan. 24 at Climate Pledge Arena. Oliver Bjorkstrand had two goals in that game.
V- Elias Petterson (Andrei Kuzmenko, Dakota Joshua) 4:31. V- Anthony Beauvillier (Conor Garland, Nils Amin) 13:09. S- Yanni Gourde (Jesper Froden) 16:56.
S- Brandon Tanev (unassisted) SH 5:07. S- Jordan Eberle (unassisted) 10:40. S- Jaden Schwartz (Eberle, Daniel Sprong) PPG, 16:19.
S- Matty Beniers (Jared McCann) EN, 19:09.
Shots on Goal- Seattle 28, Vancouver 18.
Penalty Minutes- Seattle 15, Vancouver 13.
Referees- Pierre Lambert, Furman South. Linesmen- Devin Berg, Joe Mahon.
Three Stars- 1. Jordan Eberle, S. 2. Conor Garland, V. 3. Brandon Tanev, S.