At just age 19 and in his second career National Hockey League game, Matty Beniers was spared no situation.
Last minute of regulation? He was on the ice.
Overtime? He was on the ice.
Shootout? He was on the ice and missed off the post.
Power play? He was on the ice, and for a moment where he scored his first career NHL goal.
A boisterous sellout crowd of 17,151, who will likely never forget the moment with 3:03 left in the second period with Beniers’ family in attendance, saw the Seattle Kraken rally from a second period deficit to push the New Jersey Devils into bonus hockey time and win, 4-3 in a shootout at Climate Pledge Arena on Saturday night.
Ryan Donato earned the shootout winner on a highlight-reel deke to the backhand and Philipp Grubauer made 23 saves for the win in net.
“(Vince Dunn) kind of gave me the nod and said I’m shooting this one – I was like ‘alright, let’s do it’,” said Beniers, in matter-of-fact fashion, who crashed the crease on Nico Daws’ glove side to bat in a loose puck for goal number one. “We won the draw back, (Jared McCann) had a nice tip and it crashed out to me.”
“Lucky goal for me – I don’t get many where they’re popping out, sitting in the crease and you get to bat it in.”
Luck or not, first impressions before a capacity home crowd couldn’t have turned out much better, as the first ever draft pick in Kraken history who opened the door to so many possibilities for the future. Beniers, who has points in his first two NHL games, uncorked three shots on net in 18:14 of ice time and went 6-of-10 at the face-off circle.
How do you measure confidence? With the game on the line, he got creative. Twice.
He nearly ended the Devils night by driving the right wing, then unapologetically flipping the puck in the air, off the helmet of a defending Pavel Zacha, and stormed Daws’ crease before nearly missing a highlight-reel forehand tuck to nearly turn Seattle into bedlam.
“I felt like he played a solid hockey game,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “He and linemates made critical plays at times.”
“The creativity is there. As his confidence grows, we’ll continue to see more and more of that offensive creativity.”
On the next overtime shift, he took a puck at the net, put a forehand bid brazenly between his legs, but was stopped by Daws’ right pad.
“With a couple seconds left on clock, I’ve done it before, and just gave it a go,” said Beniers. “It doesn’t look so good when it doesn’t work out, but it’s a play I’ve done before, and I had in my head it was a good try.”
A surge of youthful confidence and contribution was one piece to a winning formula the Kraken are continuously aiming to build habitually by the end of the season. Jared McCann had a pair of assists, including a magnificent set up to Carson Soucy’s game tying goal – a snipe from inside of the right circle.
It was the first time Soucy, in his third full year as an NHL defenseman, hit ten goals in one season.
“We’ve been better at creating off the rush,” said Soucy. “Our forwards made some unbelievable plays, even on (Will) Borgen’s goal too.”
Borgen’s blast for his second goal of the season and his first since New Year’s Day tied the game in the first period at 10:49 after Jesper Bratt went bar-down on Grubauer to open the scoring for New Jersey, 3:12 into the game.
The Kraken, ending a nine-game power play goal drought on Beniers’ first career goal, held onto the lead until 4:55 of the third when Damon Severson buried a cross-ice pass to the right circle for his 11th goal of the season.
It was enough to get the game into overtime, where the Kraken had enough gas in the tank to split the season series with the Devils.
“There’s a lot more work to do,” said Beniers. “You want to build a team that’s really good, especially for next year. (We’re) out of playoffs but it’s good to get momentum.”
The Devils, who will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season, fell to 2-5-2 in the last nine games.