This one still needed overtime.
This one was still in doubt.
This one was still a nail-biter, won by the Seattle Kraken.
Talk about finding another way. Matty Beniers needed just seven seconds off the opening face-off to get behind the defense, uncork a wrist shot for his tenth goal of the season on a breakaway, and remarkably finish a Kraken come-from-behind 3-2 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals before a sellout crowd of 17,151 at Climate Pledge Arena on Thursday.
“It’s back to our blueprint,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “Hard fought game, two good teams, right down to the wire. We did a lot of little things during this hockey game and find not just one point, but find the extra point in OT.”
Winners of seven straight games and four in a row at home for the first time in franchise history, the Kraken continued their blistering climb up the standings, 12-1-1 in the last 14 games and moving to within two points of the Vegas Golden Knights for top record in the Pacific Division and Western Conference.
They climbed out of a daunting 2-0 hole, though early, after the first period when the Capitals patched back-to-back goals from Martin Fehervary and Conor Sheary.
“You need some patience – it’s not going to be easy,” said Hakstol.
Philipp Grubauer, beating his old team for the second time in three tries since the Kraken started up last season, arguably delivered the turning point by flashing a glove save on an Alex Ovechkin one-timer from the left circle during a second period power play. The Kraken responded over a minute later on a power play of their own, on Jaden Schwartz’s rebound at the front of the net. They were back in the game.
“We just kept forechecking, putting the pressure on, and tiring them out,” Schwartz told 93.3 KJR-FM after the game.
Stick with it, and indeed, it would drain the Capitals. It took all the way until 2:27 left in regulation for Yanni Gourde, who also fought T.J. Oshie in the first period, to deliver a brand new game with a greasy rebound goal at the net, just minutes after Andre Burakovsky hit the post and crossbar joint on a snap shot from the right circle.
“It was pretty fitting for Gourde-o to bury that greasy goal in front with the hard work he did today,” said Schwartz.
Ovechkin, kept in check for the goal-scoring department, still factored in on both Capitals goals with two assists. His former teammate, Burakovsky, delivered two assists and has ten points in his last five games.
Beniers, who leads the NHL rookie scoring race, has 12 points in the last six games.
1. This wasn’t pretty, but a lot cleaner. The motto “finding another way to win” can become cliché after a while, but remains a fresh rallying cry because literally, the Kraken found another way to win. The only time they led in the game was after Beniers’ overtime winner. They were 0-3 when trailing after two periods. It didn’t matter.
They slowly dug their way out of the hole with a calculated and unrelenting approach. There was no panic in their game after the Schwartz goal, down by one, into the third period. Rather than trade high-risk chances with the tempo of a track meet like in Tuesday’s historically bonkers win at Los Angeles, the Kraken held up their pledge of a clean, tidy, and hygienic game. Yanni Gourde’s game tying goal, making this whole result moot if he didn’t go to the front of the net for punishment, was a game-changing tally. Philipp Grubauer saw only 23 shots and the Kraken held a 55% advantage in shot quality at five-on-five situations.
2. Grubauer needed this game, and the Kraken needed this out of Philipp Grubauer. In the past four games prior to Thursday night, the Kraken allowed 19 goals – a far cry from the basic needs of defense and goaltending required typically to win as the season gets deeper. It was no indictment on Martin Jones - though with allowing eight goals in Tuesday’s win, he still had only sat four games all year before Thursday – filling the hole spectacularly that was vacated by an injured Grubauer. The Kraken needed a game like Thursday night to demonstrate the security they have with resting Jones, and improved goaltending depth with the solid outing Grubauer showed with a second star effort.
But Grubauer needed this one. He delivered the turning point with a stunning glove save on Ovechkin, stationed at his trademark left circle “office” – which kept the game 2-0 in the second period, and got the Kraken out of a penalty kill. Jaden Schwartz scored soon after on a Kraken power play, delivering a change of momentum that would be sustained for the rest of the night. He had another ten-bell save late in the second period, keeping the game within reach. Since returning from injury, Grubauer is 2-0 with a respectable .911 save percentage.
3. Matty Beniers, another defining moment. The first two periods, which were quiet, still flashed a few “near misses” on the Beniers timeline of events. He mishandled a puck off the rush in the first period, potentially opening up a good look in the slot. He was held in check deep into the third period. But in the moment demanding a game-breaker in human form, Beniers – where at this point it shouldn’t be surprising – delivered that game-breaking moment. Getting behind the Capitals defense as quick as a lightning bolt, the poise befitting of a 20-year old playing a 25-year old’s game brought the Kraken back from the brink – and another seminal moment for both his rookie season, and a Kraken season, that is blowing the hockey world away.
The Kraken will host the Florida Panthers in the second game of the homestand on Saturday, 7pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network).
KRAKEN LINEUP VS. WASHINGTON: 12/1: