Philipp Grubauer knew exactly the meaning of this one.
The former Colorado Avalanche goaltender backstopped the Seattle Kraken with a first-star, 25 save effort and a three-goal eruption in the first 14 minutes were enough to lift the Kraken to a 3-2 victory over Colorado in the final meeting of the season, before a sellout crowd of 17,151 on Wednesday at Climate Pledge Arena.
“I think tonight we looked like a playoff team,” said Grubauer.
The final horn sounded and Grubauer, facing a squad in the heat of the Presidents’ Trophy race and a bold Stanley Cup contender, was asked if there was extra emotion beating his former team.
“Yeah, for sure,” said Grubauer.
The Avalanche, without leading scorer Mikko Rantanen and captain Gabriel Landeskog, unloaded a heavy dose of Cale Makar, who logged 26 minutes from the blueline, and mega star forward Nathan MacKinnon, who played in 22:10.
Aside from an Artturi Lehkonen third period goal, assisted by Valeri Nichuskin and MacKinnon that had the optics of goaltender interference but went unchallenged, their line was mostly kept in check with Yanni Gourde’s trio – Jared McCann and Karson Kuhlman each assisted in Gourde’s eventual game winner, while Gourde won 10 of 19 face-offs.
“You just don’t shut those guys down,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol.
“It starts with our first and second layers. They did a really good job.”
Kole Lind, scratched for Monday night’s win against Ottawa, only needed 1:12 to rip open the scoring when he hunted a loose puck and beat Pavel Francouz with a backhander for a 1-0 lead. Jordan Eberle followed up with a snipe from the right circle, the second Kraken goal on three shots, for a 2-0 advantage just 5:23 into the game.
Matty Beniers also assisted on Eberle’s goal, giving him points in his first four NHL games.
Jared McCann’s feed to the net deflected off Yanni Gourde at 14:44 for an astonishing 3-0 lead. Makar finished a give-and-go with Nazem Kadri to get the Avalanche on the board with 2:33 left in the first period, but the Kraken kept the Avalanche at bay for the night, save Lehkonen’s goal.
With Grubauer celebrating, a sellout crowd joined him for the first three game win streak of the season.
“It’s nice to finish this homestand, three in a row, give the fans something to cheer about,” said Eberle. “They’ve been with us all season – it’s a tribute to them. First class – honestly the best I’ve had maybe in my career, in the aspects of how the team is doing, and they’re there for us every night.”
Linesman Vaughan Rody, a native of Lake Stevens, Wash., officiated the final game of his 22-year NHL career and was greeted by the Kraken on ice at the end of the game.
“He’s very good at what he does, but more importantly it’s the way he goes about it,” said Hakstol. “He’s first class. There’s always a time in the game you have an opportunity to say hello, and I have a ton of respect for him and the way he does his job.”
The Kraken will open a three-game road trip on Friday, 5pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) against the host Minnesota Wild.