In a game that unwrapped little consequence for the standings, the ending was a gift that a sellout crowd of 17,151 took away to savor for the remainder of the night, and for the ensuing summer months.
The Seattle Kraken, behind Chris Driedger’s fifth career shutout on 24 saves, used a pair of first period goals to clamp down on the San Jose Sharks in a 3-0 victory at Climate Pledge Arena on Friday night.
Both teams will miss the playoffs, but the finish line of 41 games on home ice successfully wrapped the home schedule in a historic inaugural season concluding with a victory to savor.
“I don’t know if anyone left before the presentations,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol.
“Pretty special to finish with a win in front of a great crowd like that. They’ve been through thick and thin, all the way throughout the year.”
Along with a parade of events after the final horn that included a team awards ceremony and team-inclusive salmon toss, the Kraken gifted the boisterous crowd with a two-goal cushion by the end of 20 minutes, while emotional leader and forward Yanni Gourde, presented with the Fan Favorite and hustle (Guyle Fielder) awards, opened the scoring with his 21st goal of the season off the rush, just 6:17 into the game.
“I think we came out of the gate pretty well,” said Gourde. “First period was excellent. Slow start in the second, but we picked it back up and had a solid, defensive third period.”
Gourde scored a goal in five of the last seven Kraken wins on home ice and on Friday night went 10-of-15 at the face-off dot with a blocked shot.
“This guy lays it on the line every night,” said Hakstol. “You want a guy who sets a tone with effort and energy. But also, the competitive side - dragging guys into the fight. That’s what ‘Gourde-o’ does.”
Adam Larsson unloaded a one-timer on Kaapo Kahkonen for his career-high eighth goal of the season with 1:29 left in the first period, giving Driedger all the offensive support he would need. Jamie Oleksiak set up Larsson's blast, worked out from the right by Matty Beniers who has now earned points in eight of his first nine NHL games.
“Guys were patient, (they had) shot blocks, just letting me see the puck,” said Driedger, earning his first shutout in a Kraken jersey. “Things were just kind of clicking. We kept things to the outside. When the guys put up an effort like that, it’s pretty easy for me to do my job.”
Driedger’s impact was on full display in the second period when San Jose threatened to climb back into the game with 1:12 of a two-man advantage. Driedger made a pair of stops during the power play on Brent Burns and Timo Meier, and the Kraken clogged shot lanes on three separate blasts by Meier, Burns, and Logan Couture.
Victor Rask put the game away with an empty netter, with 52 seconds left.
The Kraken will wrap up the regular season on Sunday, 11am PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) against the Winnipeg Jets.
POSTGAME TEAM AWARDS:
- Pete Muldoon Award (team most valuable player): Jared McCann
- Three Stars Award: Philipp Grubauer
- Fan Favorite Award: Yanni Gourde
- Guyle Fielder Award (perseverance, hustle, dedication): Yanni Gourde