Last night, another exuberant crowd filed into Climate Pledge Arena hoping to see the Seattle Kraken eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Unfortunately, for the Kraken and their loyal fans, the Avalanche team that many predicted would waltz through the first round of the playoffs, also showed up and posted a 4-1 victory to tie the series at three games apiece.
The two teams return to Colorado’s Ball Arena tomorrow for a winner-take-all game seven matchup. Each squad has won two road games in the series..
The Avs who had the third best road record in the NHL during the regular season (the Kraken were fourth) dominated the game outshooting their hosts, 39-23. Colorado held Seattle to only four shots in the second period, scoring two goals to ice the victory. Goalkeeper Philipp Grubauer turned in another superlative playoff performance stopping 35 Avalanche shots and was selected the game’s number-two star in a losing effort.
“They (Colorado) played desperate tonight,” said Vince Dunn who scored the only Kraken goal. “They were good with the puck and I think we let them come at us a little bit too much.”
After the Kraken shocked the Avs Wednesday night in Denver, Yanni Gourde, one of the stars of that contest noted that winning game four in a series is always the toughest. That proved to be the case with the Kraken, although Seattle added to its record of most consecutive games scoring the first goal, for a team making its first ever appearance in the playoffs. Although in this case, the Kraken received some help from their video replay coaches to keep that streak alive.
Colorado’s Jack Johnson appeared to score the opening goal of the contest with 5:29 remaining in the first period. But the Kraken video team of Tim Ohashi and Brady Morgan called down to the bench o ask for a replay review claiming the Avs were offside. Coach Dave Hakstol has praised the duo for catching violations on opposing goals this season, and sure enough, the officials quickly looked at the replay and ruled no goal.
Dunn’s goal came less than a minute later. Tye Kartye’s shot was kicked out by Colorado goalkeeper Alexandar Georgiev, but defenseman Erik Johnson’s clear went right to Dunn, and the Kraken defenseman, who led the team in points during the regular season, fired the shot home. Replays on the giant twin scoreboard showed that Matty Beniers may have blocked Johnson’s view of the streaking Dunn as the Colorado defenseman put the puck right on Dunn’s stick.
After giving the Kraken a goal, Erik Johnson would score the game winner in the second period. The play was started by Nathan McKinnon, the Avs’ top scorer, who kept the puck alive while falling to the ice. Mikko Rantanen eventually passed back to Johnson, who fired through a screen of players. The puck may have hit the stick of Seattle’s Eeli Tolvanen before finding its way into the net.
Rantanen opened the Colorado scoring at the end of the first period, his sixth goal of the playoffs. Aturri Lehkonen, who moved up to the top line with Rantanaen and McKinnon, scored the third Colorado goal late in the second period off a lead pass from defenseman Devon Toews. The Avs dominated the second period outshooting Seattle, 14-4. The Kraken successfully killed three two-minute penalties and part of another before Colorado drew a penalty, bur that hindered the flow of the offense.
“”There was a lot of pace to the first period, back and forth between the two teams,” said Hakstol. “The second period, they tilted the game in their direction. They got on top of us with their forecheck which starts momentum. You wind up defending and we had to kill six minutes in penalties.”
The Kraken played better in the third period but couldn’t sustain a lot of pressure thanks to the Avs’ checking game. Shortly after Grubauer was pulled for an extra attacker, Cale Makar sent a lead pass ahead to Lehkonen who wrapped up the game with an empty-netter with nine seconds remaining.
“Grubi was good, He’s doing what he’s done all series,” said Hakstol. “He did his job tonight, and gave us an opportunity to go into the third and dig ourselves out. We had a couple of pretty good chances in the first five minutes (of the final period) that could change the feel and momentum of this game and get it within one.”
“I thought we played a lot on our heels tonight,” said Kraken forward Jordan Eberle. “We didn’t really play with pressure, and obviously they’re a good team. They are going to come at you in waves. We kept trying to find a spark and couldn’t. We played a little too timid and you have a team on the brink, they are going to play with a lot of desperation.”
The Kraken now head to Colorado for a winner-take-all finale. The winner of this series faces the Dallas Stars who defeated the Minnesota Wild last night, 4-1, to take that series four games to two. Needless to say, Kraken fans hope last night’s game won’t be their teams final home appearance of the year.
- The Kraken have now killed sixteen of seventeen penalties called against them in the series.
- While Seattle has featured 14 different goal scorers through six games, only nine Avalanche players have lit the lamp, And out of 17 series’ goals, nine have been scored by either Mikko Rantanen or Nathan McKinnon. When Lars Eller garnered an assist on the Avalanche ‘s empty-net goal it was the first point recorded by a third-or-fourth liner .
- Cale Makar remains public enemy number one in the Emerald City (at least among hockey fans). Makar was suspended for Game 5 in Colorado after his late hit on Jared McCann, who’s probably done for this series. In last night’s game, Makar was lustily booed every time he touched the puck. Kraken fans(as usual) were loud and boisterous, starting the `let’s go Kraken’ chant as soon as the game began.*
- The Denver Post reported on Thursday that Valeri Nichushkin’s absence is related to an incident at the team hotel prior to Game-3 on Saturday in which a Russian woman visiting his room was so intoxicated she had to be transported by ambulance to the hospital. The Post also reported that there were “no criminal interactions” related to the incident.. Colorado coach Jared Bednar reiterated that Nichushkin, a second-line forward for the Avalanche, is away for personal reasons and not for disciplinary measures and would be welcomed back to play. Nichushkin, who hasn’t played since Game 2, had 17 goals and 30 assists during the 2022-2023 regular season.
S- Vince Dunn (unassisted) 15:49. C- Mikko Rantanen (Evan Rodrigues, Devon Toews) 19:40.
C- Erik Johnson (Rantanen, Arturri Lehkonen) 12:39. C- Rantanen (Toews, Cale Makar) 16:57.
C- Lehkonen (Makar, Lars Eller) EN, 19:49.
Referees- Gord Dwyer, Jon McIsaac. Linesmen- Ryan Gibbons, Kyle Flemmington. Standby Officials- Kevin Pollock, Trent Knorr
Three Stars- 1. Mikko Rantanen, C. 2. Philipp Grubauer, S. 3. Devon Toews, C.