Carter Verhaeghe, Matthew Tkachuk, and Sam Bennett combined for seven points on a line together and the Seattle Kraken had a difficult time handling a shorthanded set of Florida Panthers in a 5-1 loss, snapping a seven-game winning streak before a sellout crowd of 17,151 at Climate Pledge Arena on Saturday.
The streak had to end eventually. The Kraken, steamrolling the entire NHL with seven straight wins and 12 in the last 14 games, were stonewalled by Spencer Knight’s 35 saves, a 2-0 deficit that too difficult to climb out of, and a goaltender interference challenge on Verhaeghe’s first goal that was upheld, and a source of frustration.
“I think in that case, Philipp (Grubauer) didn’t have a chance to do his job,” said Hakstol.
Grubauer made 23 saves in the loss, his first since returning from injury.
“It’s tough to see because he’s fighting back, trying to get his position,” said defenseman Carson Soucy.
COMPLETE RADIO GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Frustrations continued to boil, including a brief verbal confrontation between Andre Burakovsky and referee Brian Pochmara after Burakovsky received a slash that broke his stick in two with no penalty, leaving Burakovsky to hammer his broken stick over the dasher as he left the ice.
In the end, it masked a night were the Kraken were reflective on what was left on the table, failing to capitalize on a Panthers team that started the game one forward short of a full lineup, and then lost Radko Gudas and Patric Hornqvist to injuries.
Hakstol outlined the lack of execution in list fashion.
“Specialty teams had a chance to answer at the right time, and neither side was able to,” said Hakstol. “It was indicative of our entire game. Just the overall sharpness of our play, especially with the puck, five on five.”
Florida's power play ripped a 3-of-4 effort against the Kraken, who are operating below 60% on the penalty kill in the last nine games.
Surrendering their first loss to Florida head to head, there was even perspective about starting a new streak.
“We’ve got to come back down to earth here,” said McCann.
McCann scored the only Kraken goal, just 1:53 into the second period while Tkachuk answered with a power play goal at 5:51, restoring the Panthers two-goal cushion following Vince Dunn’s roughing penalty. Aleksi Heponiemi and Gustav Forsling each scored in the third period to help Florida pull away.
1. Sluggish start sets them back. The Kraken fell behind 2-0 in a span of 26 seconds in the first period, a checkpoint where they were never able to recover from, wading through frustrations with physical play and a combined seven points from the Verhaeghe-Bennett-Tkachuk line, who put the Panthers on their backs despite finishing the game three players short of a full lineup. It marked the second straight game they found a two-goal hole after one period – demonstrated from Thursday that a comeback is very possible, but too taxing on energy to perform as routine, night after night.
Very likely, the game could have taken a different track if their swarm on Spencer Knight found a 1-0 lead, halfway through the first period. Or even, if Beniers found the back of the net instead of a ten-bell, left pad save with six seconds remaining. Instead, Knight and the Panthers survived, Carter Verhaeghe’s gaping net goal withstood a coach’s challenge for goaltender interference (the Kraken were staunch in contending Grubauer’s space was violated, regardless of positioning outside of the crease), and the Panthers wasted no time to take advantage of the attached delay of game penalty, seizing control for much of the night.
2. Jared McCann, on the spot. Perhaps the lone bright spot of this game on the Kraken end, the former Panther delivered life back to the Kraken by finishing a magnificent feed by Jordan Eberle to the goal mouth. Though his center, Matty Beniers went quiet for the first time in six games, McCann has four goals in the last four games, while their right winger, Jordan Eberle, has stayed hot with 13 points in the last 11 games. Support with offense behind Andre Burakovsky’s line hasn’t waned and continues to serve an advantage as the Kraken have found an upper-echelon identity over the last month.
3. Expect a different team in the rematch. Sometimes in the midst of a long season delivering encouragement with winning consistency, you’re going to encounter a clunker. This was the night. The Kraken had a hard time handling the Panthers top line. They will have to find a solution for the penalty kill. They will have to find a defensive solution for Matthew Tkachuk, whose rugged game with deft offensive touch has worn them out with 10 points in five lifetime matchups. They were taken out of their rhythm. They admitted frustration. They admitted a lack of support for Philipp Grubauer, who delivered key saves to keep the Kraken in the game early. They will face the Panthers again on December 11, with this decisive loss still likely very fresh in their collective mind, along with a challenge to respond.
LINEUP, KRAKEN VS FLORIDA, 12/3