Down 2-1 late in the second period, a Kyle Okposo goal could have wrapped it up. The offensively starved Seattle Kraken, tilting ice so steep it could have slid Dustin Tokarski and his net into the second row, could have wilted.
Jordan Eberle had no such plans.
The 12-year NHL veteran, ten games shy of 800 in his career, single-handedly restored order with a natural hat trick, the first in Seattle Kraken history, unloading a shower of fan-thrown hats onto the ice for the first time ever at Climate Pledge Arena in a 5-2 win for the Kraken over the visiting Buffalo Sabres before a sellout crowd off Lenny Wilkens Way.
Linemate Jaden Schwartz wrapped up a dynamite game with three points (1g-2a), a +4 rating, a blocked shot, and a takeaway in 19:37 of ice time while Philipp Grubauer, earning the first assist for a goaltender in Kraken history (on Schwartz’s empty net goal), made 19 saves.
Finishing a brief pit stop at home (they had back to the road Saturday to take on the Arizona Coyotes), the Kraken are now 3-2 in front of their own home fans this season.
·Eberle is in rare company (according to NHL stats), becoming just the second player in the last 20 years to earn a hat trick for an expansion team – William Karlsson in Vegas was the last two do it – and didn’t until March in the 2017-18 season, while Wayne Gretzky (1980) is also on this list.
·Eberle – who has four hat tricks – last earned one with the New York Islanders on Feb. 21, 2020 against the Red Wings – a month before the pandemic wiped out the hockey season.
·This game wasn’t even close, indicating a larger rout was waiting in the wings. The Kraken whipped Buffalo in scoring chances, 27-15, including 10-4 in the “high danger areas” (thanks, Natural Stat Trick).
·Adam Larsson played a lot. His 24:40 of ice time was his second most workload handled this season, surpassed only by 25:11 in the first win in franchise history at Nashville on Oct. 14. He finished +2 with a pair of shots, hits, one takeaway and 4:14 of time on ice while killing penalties. Only Buffalo’s Rasmus Dahlin played more (24:52 overall, none on the penalty kill).
·Alex Wennberg, playing the game primarily with Schwartz while Eberle and Joonas Donskoi switched linemate roles on the right wing, logged a pair of assists, a team high +5 rating, and 54% at the face-off circle (7-of-13).
·The Kraken are now the fifth team ever in NHL history to win their first ever game against the Sabres (joining Vegas, Vancouver, Florida, and Columbus).
·Morgan Geekie, taking a shot to the head from behind by Buffalo’s Mark Pysyk in the third period – though would return – got a figuratively gigantic weight off his back with a first period one-timer that put the Kraken up 1-0, ending his nine-game goal-scoring drought. As a “power play” influenced goal – it didn’t count to end the Kraken power play drought (0-of-4), but it came with sustained movement in the offensive zone after John Hayden’s extra roughing penalty (from the fight with Jamie Oleksiak) expired.
·Remember when Schwartz had a hard time getting a point? He's on a five-game point streak.
FROM THE PODIUM:
Jordan Eberle on the hat trick and win:
“It’s obviously an honor and really cool. I’ve had a couple, but this one – first in Kraken history –it’s pretty special, I’m not going to lie. When it went in I thought about it. It was a neat moment and part of history. Nice to be part of it.”
Recapturing momentum late in the second period:
“First off, the first goal – for most part I thought we were playing really well, the shot clock was 25-8 or whatever it was, and we were down a goal with a minute or two minutes left – that’s heartbreaking. Then we score late in the second and tie the game up – that was a big goal – getting momentum back after they scored. Then when we scored to take the lead – those are big momentum shifts. This was a game we desperately needed to win. You look at standings, I know it’s early, but you can’t fall back too far behind and you need to continue to climb. We needed this game and big two points we got.”
Head coach Dave Hakstol on looking at tonight, and sensing discovered rhythm:
“Tonight was very similar to our last three to four games to be honest with you. The puck found the back of our net a little bit more. I wondered if it was going to, at some point in the second period, but getting that first one was important piece for us. The Morgan Geekie goal – just for our power play – every power play extends four to five seconds, hell of play and good finish. The big one was (Eberle’s) late in the second period. Tough to leave that period with nothing to show for it. So, nice for him to get one, big play between him and Schwartzy.”
Hakstol on the chemistry between Schwartz and Eberle:
“Well we’ve seen chemistry between those two first day of camp. We’ve had them together at times, we’ve split them at times, as we got to halfway point today we made that switch permanently for rest of the game. Those two read off each other well. (Wennberg) did a good job with them as well.”
Schwartz on finding consistency with tonight’s results:
“Everyone’s getting more comfortable. Myself included. It’s an adjustment for guys. Moving cities, moving players, I wasn’t playing my best early, I needed to get better and be better all around, really. Last couple weeks I’ve been better, thinking less, just going out and working, and not worry too much – just focus on winning games. Tonight was big. We needed this before going on the road, good effort coming back. Everyone’s feeling more comfortable around each other, growing as a team.”
Schwartz on the forecheck tonight for the Kraken:
“Aggressive forecheck for us is part of our game plan. We want to play quick and that’s how you generate a lot of offensive chances. Putting pucks behind their (defense), creating zone time, tiring them out, getting line changes when you can in the offensive zone and keep wearing them down. We’ve done a good job at that, that’s something we’ve continuing to grow and build on. We’ve been doing a good job lately.”