They came, they saw, they sweated, they conquered.
Colin Blackwell and Alex Wennberg’s back-to-back goals snapped a tie game in the second period, and the Seattle Kraken held on for another victory over a high-octane opponent, a 4-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers before a sellout crowd of 17,151 at Climate Pledge Arena on Friday.
As in victories over the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes, the Kraken (9-13-2, 20 points) received saves in key moments from Philipp Grubauer (29 saves), while tapping into offensive resources aside from top two scorers Jordan Eberle and Jaden Schwartz, both on the shelf with injuries. Captain Mark Giordano also had to remain out of the picture, still in COVID-19 protocol.
Former Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson was one of many who answered the bell, delivering his second goal of the season and led the Kraken with five blocked shots, continuously deployed to contain former teammates Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, coming in as the top two scorers in the NHL.
A two-goal lead in the final 20 minutes of regulation was just enough containment, as McDavid (who was on ice for more than anybody in the game at 25:53) and Draisaitl were paired on the same line for the third period, trying to stimulate a desperate charge.
The Kraken held firm and have continued to climb out of a hole that that was as deep as a 4-12-1 just two weeks ago with wins or points in six of the last seven games (5-1-1), with five wins against opponents – including Washington, Carolina, Florida, and Edmonton – entering Friday night with a combined record of 69-32-13.
“When we managed the puck, which was most of the night, we put ourselves in pretty good spots” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “(Edmonton) had a hell of a push in the third period. That’s going to happen when you have those two guys on the ice as often as they were, you’re going to have a push from them. Our guys handled it well and were able to close out the game.”
Securing their third straight home win meant 60 seconds of pure stress management. With Larsson gone to the penalty box for roughing with 1:31 to play, goaltender Stuart Skinner was lifted for a sixth Edmonton attacker and a six-on-four situation. With the Kraken working to defend the inside, McDavid’s attempted cross-ice pass, with eyes for Leon Draisaitl, was blocked and cleared to drain the last significant seconds of the game.
It sent the sellout crowd into a frenzy, with the noise and tension similar to the texture of a Stanley Cup Playoff bout.
“Pretty loud,” said Colin Blackwell, who scored his second goal of the year in the second period. “A lot of guys were sacrificing their bodies to get the win. That’s what you love seeing, guys on the bench jumping up, yelling, and supporting one another. The crowd was buzzing.”
Is this another brick laid down for comprehensive home ice advantage?
“It’s turning into that a little bit,” said Hakstol. “For sure, our guys are aware of it. They want to play well for the people who are up in the stands. It’s a two-way street. Our guys want to play well in front of our home fans, and we get a boost from them. It’s a nice shot in the arm when you get to tough patches in the game.”
Yanni Gourde started the Kraken push to get the fans buzzing before the seats were even warm. Just 49 seconds into the game, he greeted Skinner with a one-timer through his five-hole, set up by linemate Ryan Donato, who picked up his fourth assist in the last four games.
Fine timing in the absence of Eberle and Schwartz.
“Every time you can start with a one-goal lead, you take it,” said Gourde.
Larsson took an interference penalty and it only took 30 seconds for the league’s top ranked power play to tie the game. McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins swiftly worked the puck over to an open Draisaitl, who boomed a one-timer to the back of the net from the right circle for his league leading 21stgoal of the season at 6:41.
The defensive-minded Larsson then delivered redemption, corralling a Jared McCann cross-ice feed and whipping a snap shot past Skinner from the left circle, at 10:38 of the first period for a 2-1 advantage that held up.
“It was a good feeling for him,” said Hakstol. “Heck of a play on the goal he scored and battled hard all night. That’s who he is.”
Evan Bouchard, who misfired on a wide open look seconds prior, found a 2-2 tie in the second period at 8:12 but the status didn’t last long. Fresh call-up Kole Lind earned his first career NHL point, threading a pass to Colin Blackwell.
With a burst of speed on a last-moment breakaway, Blackwell delivered a jaw-dropping backhand deke past Skinner’s blocker for a 3-2 lead with 6:54 remaining, Blackwell’s second goal of the season.
Alex Wennberg, stationed at the right circle while Marcus Johansson set a screen, slipped a feed to the net that skipped in past Skinner, for what would be enough, and a 4-2 lead with 4:07 left in the second.
With McDavid and Draisaitl reunited in comeback mode, Morgan Geekie was turned away from the slot with a potentially backbreaking goal that wound up into the glove of Stuart Skinner. Moments later, Evan Bouchard’s tip at the net glanced off McDavid, setting a screen, to cut the deficit to 4-3 with 8:16 left.
The Oilers, losing their first game to a Pacific Division opponent, would get no closer.
“We’re confident in our group, we’ve got to keep pushing, and the only way we’re going to keep winning games is to play a full 60 minutes,” said Gourde. “It’s about finding the right identity. We’ve been doing a better job at that lately and keeping at what we do.”
The Kraken moved to within two points of the idle Los Angeles Kings for sixth place in the Pacific Division.