The shootout, penalty box trips decide a 4-3 Kraken loss at Arizona

Seattle Kraken v Arizona Coyotes

Photo: Zac BonDurant / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

Connor Ingram was perfect in the shootout while the Arizona Coyotes scored a pair of power play goals, enough to hold off the Seattle Kraken, 4-3 in the Kraken’s second shootout loss of the season before 4,600 at the tiny Mullett Arena on Tuesday. 

How it happened: 

·      Eeli Tolvanen, scoring 40 seconds into the game, and Matias Maccelli exchanged first period goals before the two teams did it again on a Barrett Hayton power play goal and Justin Schultz blast from the right circle. 

·      The game, tied at 2-2, was busted open when Jaden Schwartz tucked a power play goal just 1:16 into the third period, set up by Matty Beniers (who had two assists). 

·      That should have been enough to hold off the Coyotes, who led only for 58 seconds in the game. It wasn’t. Vince Dunn took a cross-checking penalty, setting up the red-hot Coyotes power play. Clayton Keller scored on a quick-release, right circle snap shot past Joey Daccord’s glove side, and the game was in the balance. 

Ingram made 35 saves and Daccord, making a storybook first start on the campus of where he forged his college career at Arizona State, made 24 saves – several of high-degree difficulty. Nick Bjugstad scored in the second round, as the only goal scorer in the shootout. 

The Kraken fell to 4-6-3 (11 points), just two points out of the final wild card spot and only 13 games into the season, yet face a huge game on Thursday at 6pm, when they return to Denver for the first time since winning game seven in the first round last season, against the Colorado Avalanche (93.3 KJR-FM / Kraken Audio Network). 

Takeaways from the game: 

1.     The Kraken perhaps deserved a better fate. 

Joey Daccord – though his game wasn’t 100 percent squeaky clean with a pair of goals that snuck by his glove – seemed to be dialed in and came up with a humongous overtime save on Lawson Crouse. Seconds later, Oliver Bjorkstrand, granted plenty of space to uncork his trademark snap shot, busted a game-winning attempt off the post. Beniers, who seems to have his confidence returning, was stoned cold on a breakaway to win the game with over a minute left in regulation. 

“We wanted to be a team that worked hard offensively and we did that tonight,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. 

The Kraken settled into their forecheck and controlled the game’s full strength shot quality at 58 percent. They won 50 percent of their face-offs (Beniers registered an impressive 12-of-22 clip). They coughed up the puck only five times (Arizona did it 16 times). 

“I think we’re doing a lot of good things especially in overtime, it’s just not going in for us,” said defenseman Justin Schultz. 

They played well enough to deserve a win. But when a game is close, mistakes are magnified, and the thinnest of margins is a very fine line to walk. That leads us to ….

2.     The penalty box – it cost the Kraken too much.

The Kraken took six penalties on Tuesday night and gave a respectable Arizona power play four opportunities – enough to dictate the direction of a game – and ultimately, Dunn’s cross-checking penalty would cost them. The Kraken had their legs back, their momentum back, and their lead back, only to slip back into penalty kill mode 11 seconds after Schwartz’s goal which gave the Kraken a 3-2 lead. Instead, the Coyotes five-man unit, featuring a skilled defenseman in Sean Durzi, a rookie sensation in Logan Cooley, and a budding star in Clayton Keller, put too much stress on the Kraken with quick-twitch puck movement, and a play that released an open lane for Keller to uncork the game-tying goal – which completely changed the game. 

“We took one or two we’d like to not take,” said Hakstol. “Some of them were through effort, one was just a mistake on our part. But we worked hard enough to draw power plays on our part.”  

That goal by Arizona marked the ninth time in the last ten games, where the Kraken have surrendered a third period goal. 

3.     Pin this on the shootout if you want, but it’s such a roll of the dice. 

The shootout record is 0-2, a pretty untidy metric, given the fact the Kraken haven’t scored there at all this season. Matter of fact, they’re 3-7 in franchise history. But ultimately, the shootout is a matter out of the natural flow of game control, and reduced to a skills competition – all one-on-one movement, and a cat-and-mouse game between shooter and goaltender. Shootout stats don't count. It's not used in the postseason. It was installed in the NHL 18 years ago for entertainment purposes, and to eliminate ties. 

You may ask what has to change drastically. You can start by who is deployed. Beyond that reasoning, the results are widely dictated by what's known around the sport as a total wild card – between shooter and goaltender, who reacts first? 

The Kraken have tried, this season: 

o   Matty Beniers: 0 of 2 
o   Oliver Bjorkstrand (who led off Tuesday): 0 of 2
o   Jordan Eberle: 0 of 2 

Maybe third time’s a charm based on their high-end skill, an obvious high priority for deploying shootout selections. Or maybe you completely re-arrange the lineup and give Jared McCann, who’s on a heater, a shot again. Or get … well … “creative” (and use Adam Larsson's sneaky hands? Or Alex Wennberg’s intelligence?). The Kraken routinely incorporate shootout drills at the end of practices. Perhaps it opens the door for practice to be put into play. 

But ultimately, Hakstol, who served a reminder about the Kraken mixing up the shootout selection in the past, led up to that point assessing a game’s heavier and more meaningful impact during its natural state, such as the penalty kill. 

“We’ve got to get back to dictating things to give everybody a little more certainty, including our goaltender,” said Hakstol. 

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