Martin Jones, a tweaked lineup, and the Seattle Kraken would not be denied, cruising past the Minnesota Wild in a 4-0 victory on Thursday before 17,221 fans at Xcel Energy Center.
Jones earned the 26th shutout of his NHL career and fifth over the Wild, returning from a personal absence on Tuesday to stop all 22 shots and boost the Kraken to their fourth win in five games.
“Straight up sixty minutes of hockey,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We wanted to come in and play a real good road game in a tough building. It’s a building where momentum can get rolling, so we wanted to make sure we were playing a smart road game.”
Wild head coach Dean Evason proclaimed earlier in the day the Kraken were a transformed team, a remark calling for respect as the franchise sheds the expansion skin of last season. They looked the part again, blitzing Minnesota for three goals in the third period, converting at 1-of-2 on the power play, and keeping the Wild silenced on two of their chances.
Alex Wennberg scored twice and Daniel Sprong added a pair of assists.
“We did a lot of good things and today felt like we got rewarded,” Wennberg said.
“We were talking about moving the puck and keeping our feet going. You can just tell we kept skating and when we got the puck down deep, we got the first touch.”
The Wild, top heavy with Kirill Kaprizov’s line but missing a strong chunk of their supporting cast in Ryan Hartman, Brandon Duhaime, Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno to injuries, were shut out for the first time this season and hit the skids after entering Thursday at 5-1-1 in the last seven games.
1. Goal oriented: Remember last season when offense was a struggle? Through 12 games, the Kraken are almost done with their test of being thrown into the deep end, facing a 15 game stretch out of the gate where they are facing ten teams who made the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. They have answered that stretch at 6-4-2, getting contributions from a wide swath of forwards, and after Thursday’s win have ascended to the eighth most potent offense in the NHL, averaging 3.5 goals per game.
Last season, losing a weapon like Jared McCann (who missed tonight’s game) would have brought a crippling outlook. Tonight, the Kraken didn’t skip a beat, getting a two-goal game out of Wennberg. Morgan Geekie extended his goal scoring streak to three games, and Jamie Oleksiak (who couldn’t buy a goal for over 50 games) has three in five.
2. Ding dong, Sprong is coming along: Head coach Dave Hakstol has hinted at the elevated challenge to stick in the lineup. It’s why Ryan Donato, a reliable fixture last season, has sat for three games. It’s why Shane Wright, with thousands of miles ahead of what can be a fruitful NHL career, sat for four games in a row. It’s why Daniel Sprong, armed with a bazooka of a shot, sat in the press box for three straight games. When his number was called, Sprong responded with ferocity. He’s got seven points in five games, has been entrusted with the left side on the power play, and pitched in with two assists to continue making an impact.
3. Game of Jones: For as long as Philipp Grubauer is on the shelf – and reports say it will be until at least late November – veteran Martin Jones is the guy. Backup Joey Daccord kept the Kraken in the game at Calgary with timely saves until it was time to strike, and the Kraken rallied for a monumental, statement-making victory. But as soon as Jones was available, the Kraken needed his best again, and followed a sleepy first period (he didn’t face a shot until the latter half of the period) with 12 stops, his busiest. Jones was poised, calm and collected, and has a .932 save percentage since the start of the previous homestand. When the Kraken are getting timely goaltending, combined with their offensive production, they are in prime position every night.
The Kraken finish the road trip on Saturday, bidding for a series sweep over the host Pittsburgh Penguins at 4pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network).