Maneuvering a game offering so many wild twists and turns, the Seattle Kraken had every opportunity to pull the chute.
Instead, they stuck through it, and stuck the landing.
Karson Kuhlman’s first goal of the season with 7:54 left in regulation delivered a stunning blow to the defending Stanley Cup champion, and the Seattle Kraken escaped with a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Andre Burakovsky’s return to Denver before 18,131 fans at Ball Arena on Friday.
“We were confident from the drop of the puck,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We knew they would have a little push, in their home building, and they did first couple of shifts. We settled things down.”
Philipp Grubauer, who didn’t even factor in the decision, nonetheless played a big part of the game with 17 saves before giving way to Martin Jones halfway through the third period due to injury. Grubauer was seen wincing toward his lower body after a game tying, shorthanded goal by Bowen Byram with 13:02 left in the third.
After the game, Hakstol said no immediate update was available on Grubauer.
Jones, who only had to stop one shot, earned his 200th career NHL win in his 400th career NHL game.
Jaden Schwartz and Jared McCann teamed for the game’s first two goals in 22 seconds, while Colorado rallied back on goals from Evan Rodrigues and Byram.
Kuhlman then took Jaden Schwartz’s high lob feed, bullied Kurtis MacDermid to the net and snuck a low shot through the five hole of Pavel Francouz.
“Schwartzy makes a good play, putting puck to space, and letting me skate into it,” Kuhlman said. “Usually, I like to get that puck to the far post and beat the goalie over there, but I saw a little opening and was able to put it into the net.”
“A little bit of a benchmark right there,” said Hakstol.
1. GRUBAUER STRONG: Philipp Grubauer deserved much better. Yes, the Kraken won the game, but as far as an official decision, Grubauer wound up having nothing to do with it. He was locked in from the start, especially when the Avalanche challenged Grubauer early in the first period. Alex Newhook, who twisted his way around the Kraken defense for a late break on net, was stoned in maybe the biggest save of the period to keep it scoreless. He was well on his way to three-star status until leaving the game in the third period, visibly due to injury. As of Saturday morning, his status was still unclear. The Kraken can only hope – whenever he’s back in next – more of Friday night’s performances are routine.
2. RESPONSE SHIFTS, KRAKEN STYLE: A big bold mark on a pair of losses to Carolina and St. Louis were shifts after a goal, both games yielding an opposing goal, and Dave Hakstol needing to use his timeout in the first period after St. Louis went up 3-1 in the first period with a pair of goals in 17 seconds. The Kraken learned their lesson. Immediately after Jaden Schwartz’s goal to go up 1-0, there was no complacency. In fact, onward they marched back into the Colorado zone to have Jared McCann dig away at a loose puck to go up by two. It made a major impact on the Kraken fortunes all night. They never trailed en route to the win.
3. OLEKSIAK ANSWERS THE BELL: An uneventful first period (teams typically need those in road games) with a scoreless tie provided a defining moment, throwback edition. Kurtis MacDermid, a heavyweight at 6-foot-5 and 233 pounds, tried to inject life into a lifeless Ball Arena and challenged Jamie Oleksiak – an absolute stack at 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds - to drop the gloves. A throwback moment had a throwback timeline: the two tussled for nearly a minute. While the bout was devoid of a classic Bob Probert vs. Marty McSorley punch-a-thon, and MacDermid predictably got a few shots in at Oleksiak, the Kraken visibly recognized Oleksiak’s willingness to answer MacDermid’s challenge. Street cred and energy combined, they built the moment for the second period, and for the Kraken to pounce.
The Chicago Blackhawks, who beat Detroit in overtime on Friday, are up next for the Kraken. Sunday’s game at United Center will be the first of three meetings, starting at 11:00am PT (93.3 KJR-FM / Kraken Audio Network).