A symbol of tomorrow became reality, dressed in a white and blue Seattle Kraken sweater, wasting little time getting started on offensive production in the National Hockey League.
The Kraken still had to contend with the matters of present day, building a 3-1 lead against the Pacific Division leading Calgary Flames, only to see it slip after Calgary scored four unanswered goals in the third period to defeat the Kraken, 5-3 before 16,392 fans on Tuesday night at Scotiabank Saddledome.
That symbol, center Matty Beniers, who elected to forego his junior season of college hockey to join the Kraken, wasted little time making an impact in his NHL debut. Beniers needed only 14:13 of time into the game to log his first career NHL point, an assist on a Ryan Donato goal, and checked off a substantial amount of ice time, 17:10, with a shot on goal, hit, and takeaway.
“First shifts you’re just trying to gauge how it’s going to go, and how you’re going to get into it,” said Beniers. “Once I got a few under my belt, and got some puck touches, it started to open up a little more for me."
Beniers, selected second overall by the Kraken as their first ever NHL Entry Draft pick last summer, made a play to Donato, a longtime friend from the Boston area, that was befitting of a seasoned NHL veteran. The 19-year old forward, just days removed from competing in the NCAA Frozen Four, whipped a cross-ice pass into the wheelhouse of Donato, who hammered a one-timer for his career-high 15th goal past Jacob Markstrom from the right circle for a 1-0 lead.
“I’m most impressed with (Matty’s) poise,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “In all senses, not just on the ice. His hockey sense and his ability to know and understand what’s around him, he showed to be excellent. He looked comfortable in traffic, and that’s a big challenge on night number one.”
He skated in his first NHL game as a center for Donato and Jordan Eberle, who helped generate a promising start against the Flames, who had won four in a row.
“It was a fun game, not the way we wanted to see it turn at the end, but I was happy to see him get his first point,” said Donato.
Matthew Tkachuk, who would finish with a hat trick, tied the game on a tip by Noah Hanifin’s point shot with 3:09 left.
The Kraken raced ahead 3-1 in the second period on Victor Rask’s snapshot past Markstrom at 3:06, and Adam Larsson’s drive with 2:50 left, moments after exiting the penalty box.
Calgary then curiously pulled Markstrom, who had 12 saves, for backup Dan Vladar to begin the third period and responded. After Yanni Gourde was called for tripping despite Johnny Gaudreau stepping on his stick, Tkachuk drew the Flames to within a goal on a four-on-three situation with 16:50 left and Andrew Mangiapane’s 31st goal of the season tied the game on a loose puck at the net with 14:27 remaining.
A Joonas Donskoi tripping penalty, where he lost his stick in the feet of Christopher Tanev, behind the Flames net would prove costly. Hanifin, earning his sixth point in the last two games against the Kraken (and tenth in the last seven games), ripped a shot from the point for a 4-3 lead with 5:50 left for the Flames second power play goal of the period.
Tkachuk wrapped up the game with an empty netter for the hat trick with 43 seconds left.
“We took too any penalties, but I don’t think it was necessarily our own fault,” said Donato. “At the same time, we were just competing. Emotions ran high at the refs and us, and unfortunately, they had a big impact on the game.”
“It is what it is.”
The Kraken now have three days off before their next game action, Saturday at home against New Jersey at 7pm PT which is potentially set to be Beniers’ home debut. The Kraken were to travel to Winnipeg for a Wednesday contest, rescheduled by the NHL to May 1 amidst extreme winter conditions affecting the region.
KRAKEN LINEUP AT CALGARY, APR. 12: