There’s just something about Florida.
The Seattle Kraken got back to the sunny side of their game in snapping a three-game losing streak, getting a big game out of growing rookie sensation Matty Beniers while Martin Jones was dialed in with 23 saves in a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers before 15,625 fans at FLA Live Arena on Sunday.
The Kraken haven’t lost at the home of the Panthers, going 2-0 while settling the season series in a 1-1 split.
They stayed out of the box early and often, delivering a consistent wave of four lines to generate offense.
“We talked about getting back to who we are,” said head coach Dave Hakstol. “Being a little bit better at five-on-five, a little bit better in all three zones, how we checked, how we skated, and we did that tonight.”
Jones was steady on the basic shots along with a few high-grade tests, turning in the win. Through 20 games, he’s at 13 wins, surpassing last season’s total in 15 less games.
“The first half of the game, he had some key saves,” said Hakstol. “He had a couple saves where maybe it didn’t appear were quite as difficult. He was really key on this one.”
Beniers, who had his press scrum interrupted by a well-mannered question on an upcoming Mario Kart video game tournament by teammate Morgan Geekie, got the Kraken off and racing just 64 seconds into the game.
“I think we kept to it,” said Beniers. “They had a good push back, but we had another push back after that and were able to keep momentum.”
Veteran Eric Staal’s first goal of the season, at the goal mouth, tied the game at 7:34 of the second but Andre Burakovsky’s wired wrist shot from the right circle restored the Kraken lead at 9:05 of the period. In the third, Beniers drilled a shot off a Jordan Eberle screen to set the Kraken ahead 3-1, who tacked on a late power play goal by Daniel Sprong and an empty netter from Yanni Gourde.
Chris Tierney made it 5-2 with 1:17, but the game was academic at that point.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves in net for the Panthers.
1. Martin Jones gave the Kraken a chance. Sunday’s win was Jones’ best outing in five games, the first time he’s allowed under three goals since a 3-2 win over the Kings on Nov. 19. Easily, it was his best outing in five games. Not just for the fact that he allowed a mere two goals (and really, one until the game was virtually put away), but the outing was impressive for the quality of saves at the right time, he pulled against the Panthers. He helped thwart an early Florida power play and came through with an impressive stop on Carter Verhaeghe in the first period. A glove save stop on Sam Reinhart in the third period kept the Panthers at bay.
There were plenty of chances for the Panthers to seize momentum, and Jones was superb at nearly stopping them all – a reminder of how the Kraken can continue to grow as a postseason threat, as long as goaltending clocks in for duty.
2. Depth goes deep in another win. When the Kraken are successful, they roll four lines. They are able to stay out of the penalty box. They are able to get scoring usually from three, at times all four lines. On Sunday, all four lines contributed. Matty Beniers’ line, which at this point stands as much of a chance to be broken up soon as pigs flying, chipped in with four points. Andre Burakovsky gave the Kraken the lead for good. Daniel Sprong tacked on key insurance (though it came on the power play). Yanni Gourde delivered the final dagger with an empty netter. By staying away from penalty trouble for 43 of the first 47 minutes, they were able to establish their game. Every line pitched in.
3. This was the Matty Beniers leadership game. He scored on a one-timer just 64 seconds into the game. Need a tone-setting goal? Check. He delivered a pinpoint shot to the net that linemate Jordan Eberle got a piece of. Need a big goal (and, the game winner)? Check. He saw Ryan Lomberg decimate Justin Schultz in the third period on an ugly hit in the corner and wasted absolutely zero time challenging Lomberg to drop the gloves. Need an emotional response? Check.
Think about that for a moment. Beniers, 20, still as much a greenhorn as any other NHL rookie, took on an opposing player eight years his senior. It was a symbol of protection that often wins over teammates, lifts a dressing room, commands respect, and earns the postgame star-of-the-show honors. That’s leadership. Beniers took a big step forward with it tonight. You want to file that moment away in “Matty Beniers for captain” down the road? Let’s obviously not get too far ahead of ourselves now, but he delivered a striking argument for the future.
By the way, Beniers leads all NHL rookies with 11 goals, and 23 points. Calder stuff.
The Kraken, next, will visit the Tampa Bay Lightning at 4pm PT on Tuesday (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network).
KRAKEN LINEUP VS. FLORIDA, 12/11: