Sometimes, a hockey game over the course of sixty minutes will yield pure work-of-art beauty: free-flowing, chance-trading, and riveting action at the front of the net that leaves many captivated.
Other nights, it’s like fighting in a mud pit.
Both teams yielded to the latter with a grubby, grimy, and encrusted development as the Minnesota Wild blocked 22 shots and used star netminder Marc-Andre Fleury’s 28th career shutout to hold off the Seattle Kraken, 1-0 before a sellout crowd at Climate Pledge Arena on Friday.
“It was a pretty tight game, you knew it was going to be that way,” said Hakstol. “Both teams do a pretty good job of limiting opportunities.”
“That kind of night. We’ve got to find a dirty one, a greasy one somewhere. We weren’t able to do that.”
The Kraken, who outshot the Wild 28-21, had their five game win streak come to an end despite an overall stellar outing again from the defense and Martin Jones, who turned in 20 saves and allowed a Mats Zuccarello first period snipe between the circles as the only shot to beat him all night. Jones is 5-2 in the last seven games with a .940 save percentage, fourth best in the NHL since October 25.
“Jonesy was good tonight,” Hakstol said. “He was rock solid and the one that beat him was a bang-bang play in the slot.”
The Zuccarrello goal is the only one to permeate the Kraken and Jones in the head-to-head series, now split with each team collecting a shutout. They will meet for the third and final time in Minnesota on March 27.
“Nice to hear the buzzer,” Fleury said.
“The guys in front of me played well and helped me out a lot.”
1. The Flower bloomed again. When you run into a hot goaltender, it’s tough to win. On some nights, you throw every metric out the window. Martin Jones, again, was spectacular. Only one shot got by him in 60 minutes. He now has a .977 save percentage in two weeks against the Wild.
Marc-Andre Fleury, who continues to strengthen his case for the Hockey Hall of Fame, on Friday night was even better and the difference maker. His workload got busier as the night progressed, stopping 14 shots in the third period including a final horn-beating rush that stopped Yanni Gourde and Oliver Bjorkstrand on the doorstep. He turned in a 28-save shutout and in the process, set a new record by shutting out his 28th career opponent, most in NHL history. Sometimes, you’ve got to tip your cap.
2. Stuck in the mud. As Dean Evason was clear to point out last week, the Kraken threatening transition game has drawn much more attention around the league, to the point of a new identity that opponents are trying to become familiar with. Friday night was going to require a greasy, grimy, ugly goal to stand a chance, and needless to say, they were hard to come by. The Kraken were held to six high-danger chances at five-on-five (per naturalstattrick.com) and were held without a shot on goal in their first three power play opportunities – two opportunities that could have defined the tone early, each in the first and second period. Many chances the Kraken were squandered on clears by Minnesota, or blocked shots: the Wild got in the way of a whopping 22 shots, to five for the Kraken.
3. Penalty kill still killing it: Though one of the most upgraded power play units came up dry on Friday, the other side of the special teams units came through in spades once again. The Kraken penalty kill, languishing toward the baseman just several days ago, extinguished another three power play chances for Minnesota and are now 16-of-16 over the last five games. With Jamie Oleksiak out of action for at least a week, his big 6-foot-7 frame as a physical presence is sorely missed, and the Kraken rotated through Will Borgen, Adam Larsson, Carson Soucy, and Vince Dunn as four defensemen on Friday night, earning the most penalty kill deployment to keep the Wild off the board.
KRAKEN LINEUP, VS WINNIPEG: 11/11
The Kraken, taking Saturday off, will return to play for the third game of the homestand against the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, 5pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network).