Blake Wheeler, Dominic Toninato, and Kyle Connor each scored 4:16 apart to help the Winnipeg Jets rally out of a 3-1 hole in the third period and defeat the Seattle Kraken, 4-3 in the 2021-22 regular season finale before a crowd of 14,443 at Canada Life Centre on Sunday.
The Kraken, falling short finishing the season with back-to-back wins and one win shy of matching Nashville and Columbus for fourth most wins by an expansion team since 1991-92, wrapped up their historic expansion season with a three-goal rush in the second period which seemed to put the game fully in control with the two-goal cushion through two periods.
Winnipeg then outshot the Kraken, 14-6 in the final period for the three-goal rally of their own.
“We had a real good, first two periods,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “(The game) unraveled in the third period a little bit, giving up three quick ones. We just didn’t follow up the first two periods.”
With the NHL’s sole regular season game in May underway on a Sunday afternoon because of rescheduling from an April snowstorm, Morgan Barron put Winnipeg up 1-0 just 3:47 into the game and Alex Wennberg, who broke a 10-game goal scoring drought, finished a backdoor feed from Jared McCann to tie the score on a power play, 5:55 into the second period.
Rookie Matty Beniers set up McCann’s feed to end the season with points in nine of his first ten NHL games.
McCann, who signed up for a five-year contract extension during the middle of the season and enjoyed a career high 50 points and 27 goals, leading the Kraken in both categories.
He’s not settling.
“(I’m) trying to become a more complete player in the NHL,” said McCann. “I’ve got some work to do.”
Daniel Sprong, who tied a career high with 14 goals, got behind the defense and beat Eric Comrie with a wrist shot at 12:24 for a 2-1 lead, his sixth goal in 16 games since the Kraken acquired him in a March trade from Washington for Marcus Johansson.
Riley Sheahan then stashed his fourth goal of the season with 6:41 left in the second period for a 3-1 edge before Winnipeg started their rally with a Blake Wheeler snapshot off a face-off, 4:49 into the third period.
Toninato’s seventh goal, and third goal in three meetings against the Kraken, drew the Jets to within a goal at 7:16 and Kyle Connor finished his 47th goal of the season at the front of the net to put Winnipeg ahead for good with 10:55 remaining in regulation.
The loss ended the Kraken season on losing terms, but inclusive of a stretch where they went 8-6 over a 14-game span during a difficult season.
“Our play since the trade deadline has been really sound, really solid,” said Hakstol.
“There’s a lot of pieces of our game we’ve really liked over the last stretch over here.”
Hakstol said the process starts “tomorrow” with evaluating what’s next for decisions on the roster, including individual player meetings that will be formulated into a team evaluation.
Sheahan, Victor Rask, and Derrick Pouliot will all be unrestricted free agents, while seven other players, including Ryan Donato, Daniel Sprong, and Karson Kuhlman will enter restricted free agency. The
Those returning, inclusive of Matty Beniers’ first full NHL season, have last year’s second round draft pick and signed defenseman Ryker Evans waiting in the wings, along with five draft picks in the first two rounds of this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
“Our future’s looking pretty bright,” said McCann. “We’ve got some young prospects that are really good, and maybe next year they can step in and play some games.”
Chris Driedger made 23 saves to take the loss and Comrie stopped 27 shots for Winnipeg.
Notes: Winnipeg won all three games in the head-to-head series …. Forward Jordan Eberle was scratched from the game (coach’s decision) in place of Sprong … the Kraken loss slotted them with the third highest selection odds for the lottery in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft, with the lottery held on May 10 … defenseman Adam Larsson was the sole player to play in all 82 games of the Kraken expansion season.
KRAKEN LINEUP, MAY 1 VS. WINNIPEG: