Talk about a game the Seattle Kraken needed, and badly.
Daniel Sprong, scratched for six of the first seven games, elevated his return with a first star effort along with a goal and two assists, while goaltender Martin Jones stopped 15 of 16 shots in a no-doubter, 5-1 victory for the Kraken over the Buffalo Sabres before a sellout crowd on Tuesday at Climate Pledge Arena.
Returning to the .500 mark with a win and in a game where they led wire-to-wire, the Kraken improved to 3-0 lifetime against Buffalo and snatched their first home win of the season.
Sprong teamed with linemates Morgan Geekie and Brandon Tanev to combine for six points.
COMPLETE RADIO GAME HIGHLIGHTS
“They had a good night, they got us off to a good start,” head coach Dave Hakstol said.
“In that role, you have to do a good job in a 200-foot sense, but in that group, they were able to contribute tonight, offensively and that’s important for our group to have that depth with scoring.”
Like the game in Chicago, the Kraken busted the first period gates with an early 2-0 lead. They scored on their first shot of the game on Jamie Oleksiak’s first goal since Nov. 21 last season. Brandon Tanev then feathered a picture-perfect breakaway pass to Morgan Geekie, who stung goaltender Eric Comrie for his first of the season.
This time, they were able to build on the lead, and thwart any incoming threats.
Dylan Cozens scored Buffalo’s only goal with 7:35 left in the second period, and the Kraken special teams extinguished four Buffalo power plays and a five-on-three opportunity.
Jared McCann and Matty Beniers added goals in the second and third period, respectively.
1. Geekie line carries the mail: It’s difficult to expect success asking for routine offense out of a fourth line (although we’ve heard before from Dave Hakstol, the Kraken don't abide by a formal label such as a “first line” and “fourth line"). Regardless, the trio of Geekie, Brandon Tanev and Daniel Sprong do not shoulder as much offensive burden such as lines anchored by Matty Beniers or Alex Wennberg. However, their contributions are a spark with regards to depth, like a fourth line. The Kraken were ignited by what they did, splattering the scoresheet. Sprong created a great look on net before Jamie Oleksiak buried a follow up chance for the game’s first goal.
Brandon Tanev feathered a chef’s kiss relay behind the Buffalo defense, directly onto the tape of Geekie for a breakaway. Then Sprong, set up by Tanev on a Buffalo defensive zone error, buried a no-doubter all alone on net. Face-offs were a struggle: Geekie’s 1-of-9 clip was part of a night where the Kraken came out with a 33% output at the dot. But overall, the trio delivered significant results with driving play.
2. Special teams’ dominance: By now, early results have developed from trends into habits. The Kraken power play has sent a message nearly each game: it is formidable, threatening, and significantly upgraded. They responded from an empty 0-of-4 game at Chicago to deliver a 2-of-3 effort and now sit seventh in the league at 29 percent. Matty Beniers got a fortunate bounce off the Buffalo penalty kill to effectively put the game away, but now has six points in his first eight NHL games. Jared McCann, before that, finished a picture-perfect Andre Burakovsky feed through the box and in McCann’s wheelhouse, stationed at the left circle to unload a snipe past Comrie. Both units came through to make an impact on the scoresheet. Penalty killing delivered flawless results, and Martin Jones helped the cause on a two-man advantage for Buffalo with a tough blocker save on a Tage Thompson snap shot.
3. Keep it clean: Along with boundaries of building a lead throughout the game come with expectations of avoiding the “disastrous,” game changing moments. Often times, it’s a “response goal,” where an opponent comes back with a goal typically inside the first minute eft a Kraken goal, or goals surrendered in the first minute or two, or final minute of a period that have potential to change the feel and momentum. The Kraken avoided any kinds of troubles in those departments, commanded puck possession, and (with the exception of a few shifts in the second and third period) kept the workload for Martin Jones relatively light.
The Kraken will face the winless Vancouver Canucks, next, starting 7pm PT (93.3. KJR / Kraken Audio Network) on Thursday at Climate Pledge Arena.