They were down, but not out.
Originally trailing with 20 minutes to go, the Seattle Kraken had more life in them. Jared McCann’s dart to the glove side of David Rittich completed a third period rally and lifted the Kraken to a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets before a sellout crowd of 17,151 at Climate Pledge Arena on Sunday.
Looking to break free of the shackles presented as a string of five losses in six games, the Kraken dug deep against a Jets team that came in as defensively sound, but also taxed in the latter stage of a back-to-back set of games.
By wearing down the second-place Jets, they started their march to victory by tying the game just 16 seconds into the third period. They waited out their chance before McCann, with a “world class shot” as termed by head coach Dave Hakstol, buried his 14th goal of the season from the right circle with 4:32 left in regulation.
“We had to wait for the right moment, right opportunity,” said McCann.
The Kraken earned their second win of the year when trailing after two periods, waiting for over 55 minutes to get their first lead despite finishing the game by doubling Winnipeg up in shots, 34-17.
“It’s a type of game where you have to stay with it, stay patient,” said Hakstol.
“We stayed with it, we scored a couple of determined goals, and that made the difference.”
Mark Scheifele’s tip at the net put the Jets up 1-0 on a two-man advantage, 8:26 into the game. Jordan Eberle then unleashed a jaw-dropping, spin-to-the-backhand shot from the left circle that went bar-down on Rittich to tie the game, 8:43 into the second period.
“Vintage Jordan Eberle, that’s what I grew up watching,” said McCann. “Probably make him sound older than he is.”
Pierre-Luc Dubois’ rebound into a gaping net gave Winnipeg their second power play goal and a 2-1 lead, 12:41 into the second period. But it was a matter of time before the Kraken took advantage of their open window.
“That’s the way we should play for 60 minutes,” said McCann. “We can do that – we know we’re one of the best teams in the league. We need to find that every night.”
Philipp Grubauer, not tested as much as Rittich but still providing timely stops, made 15 saves.
1. PURE TEST OF RESILIENCY, PASSED. The Jets were 9-0 after one period with a lead. They were 13-0 after two periods with a lead. The Kraken had just one victory (one!) when leading after two periods. Whatever. Dave Hakstol outlined earlier this weekend on the difficulty of winning while playing catch-up hockey, in the NHL. But this is, again, not the Kraken of last year. Chase hockey turned into “anyone’s game” hockey when Ryan Donato pulled a simple, but “easier said than done” maneuver – going to the front of the net and willing to absorb physical punishment, just for the mere chance to get a deflection and tie the game. Mission accomplished on Yanni Gourde’s shot, and it gave the Kraken a substantial boost to set up McCann’s game winner, a marksman-like dart to the glove side corner of David Rittich. We’ve heard from inside the Kraken dressing room about the link of internal belief. It was put into play on Sunday night.
2. THIS WAS A TALE OF TWO GAMES. Winnipeg’s ability to hang around in Sunday’s game was from the evolution of two power play goals. It’s an observation not meant to cheapen their effectiveness, but illustrate the different playing fields, so to speak, both teams were on. The Kraken owned play at five-on-five, seizing a 70% share of shot quality. They tilted ice for good in the third period. With the Jets lagging on the second game of back-to-back nights, their decaying energy showed, and the Kraken earned a 5-0 edge in high danger chances. When the Kraken took penalties, Winnipeg made them pay, and the Jets went 2-of-3 on the power play. Staying out of the box was troublesome at key moments, but a moot point in the end. When the Kraken played to full strength, they were unstoppable on Sunday.
3. NOT AN EASY GAME FOR PHILIPP GRUBAUER. He wasn’t tested as much as Rittich was, who was also spectacular with 31 saves. But there were times that Grubauer had to find a way to stay engaged in the game, and both goals that Winnipeg scored were either off deflections (on a two-man advantage), or a loose puck in the crease. Those chances were scored from close range, and a Kyle Connor shot in the third period was the last Grubauer would see: with still over 14 minutes in the game. The defense was remarkable. But he was put to the test in sporadic times, and reliable when called upon to make a big save.
The Kraken will host the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, 7pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) at Climate Pledge Arena.
KRAKEN LINEUP VS. WINNIPEG, DEC. 18: