Sizing up against an opponent that’s reached the Stanley Cup Final three years in a row, retaining their core, isn’t an easy task.
With regards to the challenge, Tuesday night came as advertised. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored twice in the first 7:24 of the game and led wire-to-wire in a 6-2 victory over the Seattle Kraken before 19,092 fans at Amalie Arena.
Jared McCann cut into the two-goal lead with a late first period goal from an outnumbered rush, bringing hope that remained until Tampa Bay blew the game open halfway through the second period.
“When that third goal went in that took a lot out of us,” head coach Dave Hakstol said.
Corey Perry’s snap shot past Philipp Grubauer started the Lightning run, while Brayden Point and Ross Colton completed a rush of three goals in a span of 3:24.
“For 40 minutes, we worked hard and didn’t get into the inside enough in the offensive zone,” said forward Jaden Schwartz.
“That momentum swing hurt us in the second.”
With the Kraken trailing by a substantial margin in shots in the first ten minutes, they closed the gap to 15-13 in the first period, helping identify the slow start that was too much to overcome.
“Just the first ten minutes, that’s the biggest piece,” said Hakstol. “Our forecheck has to be better, we were a little bit slow on everything, and they’re going to take advantage of that in a big way.”
“I felt it should have been a 1-1 hockey game after the first period.”
Grubauer stopped 16 shots and was relieved from the game after Tampa Bay went up 4-1, replaced by Martin Jones who stopped eight of ten shots.
Steven Stamkos lifted his 16th goal of the season past Jones, from close range at 5:29 of the third and with the outcome already assured, Ryan Donato finished the scoring with five seconds left.
Andrei Vasilevskiy turned in a 36 save effort as the Kraken fell to 0-3 lifetime against Tampa Bay. The two teams will meet again in Seattle on January 16.
1. Expect a rebound game from Grubauer and the defense, next time out. Because Tuesday night wasn’t pretty. Erik Cernak scored on a clean-as-a-whistle snapshot off the rush in the first period. Corey Perry scored from mid-range, no screen, to extend the Lightning lead in the second period. The defense experienced issues clearing out on Ian Cole’s look and coverage on Brayden Point’s hot-knife-through-butter highlight reel goal to put Tampa Bay up 4-1. At that point, Grubauer was relieved for Martin Jones. The hole was too big to recover. The sound and steady pairing of Vince Dunn and Adam Larsson finished the night at a combined minus-6, among the many who had to endure a rough evening and are looking for a rebound game Thursday, against a tough Carolina squad.
2. The Ian Cole goal was an omen. Starting fast is a recipe for success. The Kraken are 11-2-1 when they score the first goal of the game. It’s even more critical against a Lightning team feeling like their old selves again at 10-3 in the previous 13 games. The Kraken needed a low-event start in the first few minutes to build their game. Instead, Tampa Bay raced out of the gates on the Cole goal with a little under two minutes gone, then staked a 2-0 lead to put the Kraken into high chase mode all night long. Give the Kraken credit, they didn’t panic and when Jared McCann scored on a two-on-one with 1:21 left in the first period, there were signs of life that a remarkable turnaround against the three-time Stanley Cup Finalists were in order. Instead, Tampa Bay pulled away with three goals in a span of 3:24, illustrating the full 60-minute challenge of facing a team as polished and accomplished as the Lightning.
3. Eeli Tolvanen time next game? With the Kraken winning more exponentially this season, there has been little need to change the lineup. Remember how tough it’s been to get Shane Wright in there? Coming off a decisive loss, opportunity knocks to examine a different look. Of course, matters are to be determined for Thursday against Carolina, but the Kraken have a shiny new toy in Tolvanen, ready to jump in with an upgraded defensive ability from over the last season and armed with a rocket shot. It’s useful on the power play, but there is a log jam the Kraken have with weapons such as Jared McCann, Andre Burakovsky, Matty Beniers, and Daniel Sprong who are often used in the spots that Tolvanen has played. If changes are indeed coming, it would surprise nobody if Thursday presents an opportunity for Tolvanen to contribute. It’s only a matter to question how much he needs to be used.
The Kraken will aim for a 2-2 road trip split on Thursday, 4pm (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) at Carolina.
PROJECTED KRAKEN LINEUP, DEC. 13 AT TAMPA BAY: