The Seattle Kraken have come alive. They are now real. They are now tangible. They are now a thing.
They also nearly gave us heart stopping theatre.
Down 3-0 while succumbing to the routine Vegas “first ten minutes of the game” tidal wave in T-Mobile Arena, they responded with poise in period two. Ryan Donato’s historic first goal in Kraken history got the rally going. Jaden Schwartz to Jared McCann made it interesting, and Morgan Geekie gave them new life.
Against a team that’s gone to the Conference Final three of the last four years while missing key components like Yanni Gourde, Calle Jarnkrok and others – and fight like this in the first game of the rest of their lives? Not too shabby.
Officials reviewed the play, refusing to overturn a goal that went off the sweeping leg of Chandler Stephenson after scanning all available video evidence.
So, the Kraken finish the first game of 82, in Las Vegas, filed in the “close but no cigar” folder in a 4-3 defeat to the Golden Knights.
They’re a part of a continuous expansion trend in the NHL: it’s hard to win your first game. Vegas is the only team to do that in the last 29 years, something that Anaheim, Florida, Nashville, Minnesota, and Columbus couldn’t do.
But for fans who’ve waited from three years (the outset of the franchise’s “green light” via the NHL), to 46 (when the Totems were the last pro hockey team in Seattle) for this night, their wish has come true.
Seattle’s sports landscape is now joyously thicker.
- Ryan Donato scored the first goal in Kraken history, etching his name in trivia with fellow expansion brethren James Neal (Vegas), Bruce Gardiner (Columbus), Marian Gaborik (Minnesota), Kelly Buchberger (Atlanta), Andrew Brunette (Nashville), Scott Mellanby (Florida), Sean Hill (Anaheim), Chris Kontos (Tampa Bay), and Neil Brady (Ottawa), covering the last 30 years.
- Approximately 90 minutes before face-off, reports began to swirl that Joonas Donskoi, Jamie Oleksiak, and Jared McCann were cleared from COVID-19 protocol and would be available to play. They all made their way into the lineup – McCann earned a second period goal, and Donskoi added an assist.
- It appeared that former Seattle Thunderbird Alexander True, recalled to supplement a lineup shortage that was wearing extremely thin, was due to make his Kraken debut on a historic first night. He was scratched, and will have to wait his turn as earliest as Thursday.
- Alex Wennberg, deployed late by Dave Hakstol in key face-off situations with a one-goal deficit still eating away at the clock, was borderline unconscious at the face-off circle, winning 8-of-11 draws.
- The Kraken delivered the edge in hits, 33-26 over Vegas, with Brandon Tanev, Haydyn Fleury, Adam Larsson, and Jamie Oleksiak each collecting five hits.
- Veteran Joonas Donskoi, officially making the Kraken his third NHL team (San Jose, Colorado), played in his 400th career game.
- From the other side: Morgan Geekie (who celebrated similarly on another third period goal he scored in the pre-season) tied the game on a 3rd period snipe from the right circle, his first goal with the Kraken, and punctuated it emotionally with a celebration by twirling his stick and sheathing it like a sword. The Golden Knights apparently didn't like it. "I know our players took offense to it," Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer said.
FROM THE PODIUM:
Ryan Donato on the anticipation of scoring the first goal in franchise history:
“That’s a tough question. I mean, obviously, everybody has that kind of in the back of their mind, ‘oh this is a big deal’ but I think when you're there you're just playing hockey right? I think immediately after you kind of get that initial thought like well, but for me it was kind of, just do what you need to do and hopefully do it well and you never know. And, that's what happened.”
Morgan Geekie on the Kraken’s resilient effort in rallying back:
“Yeah, I think it kind of speaks to our character as a team. We knew they're a good team coming in here and they kind of paved the way but I like what we brought tonight. I think we got better as the game went on, so we can kind of use that to carry into the rest of this road trip.”
Geekie on the dressing room’s reaction to get three Kraken teammates back from COVID-19 protocol:
“That's awesome. Obviously they're a big part of our team. There was a lot of confusion and it was a pretty busy 48 hours for us, but I think the medical staff, trainers, coaches and everyone in the organization did a great job of kind of handling that - taking care of it and getting ahead of it almost, and allowing those guys to make it tonight.”
Dave Hakstol on his thoughts on the game’s result:
“A lot of ups and downs through the game tonight. We made some mistakes that, that cost us but we also did a lot of really good things. Getting down three nothing in this building, being able to push back, to get it back to even it says a lot about our group in terms of sticking together, believing and making plays. But it's disappointing to not come away with two points, with three players back here this afternoon.”
Hakstol on the game’s start:
“You know, we had a real good start the first the first few shifts. But, you know, through the game has a lot of momentum swings in this hockey game. Some of those momentum swings came off of Vegas’ transition and we fed that transition a little bit too much, and those are stretches where things got a little bit chaotic for us. But in most cases we were able to settle it down and push it the other direction. But those were parts of the momentum swings through the game."
Hakstol on the ability to use Donato’s goal to generate momentum:
“Well this building – a lot of buildings – especially in the second period you're going to see those big momentum swings and it's about being able to take care of the puck, being able to start shifts fresh with the puck, instead of starting usually in the second period – when you look at it, if you get back on your heels. You're probably starting your shifts with the other team having the puck, you end up defending. Now once you get the puck, you're tired, and all you can do is work to get off with a long change. So, those are sequences that can put you back on your heels.”