The Seattle Kraken were so close.
One minute and twenty one seconds close.
All they needed was one last defensive stand at six-on-five, and an empty net to shoot for. Victory would be theirs, in a series where they’ve never won.
It never came.
The Vancouver Canucks, tying the game on an extra attacker situation, jumped on the back of Elias Pettersson’s career-high tying five point outing and eventual third round winner, and sent the Seattle Kraken to a 6-5 shootout loss before 18,794 fans at Rogers Arena on Thursday.
“End of the day, we get the one goal lead as you go through the last minute and a half of a period – that’s an area you take a lot of pride in,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “We got one clear, and we weren’t able to get guys off the ice.”
“They took advantage of that and made a play.”
COMPLETE RADIO GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Pettersson, giving new life to the Canucks on his one-timer from the right circle to tie the game, hung with his status during the day in limbo. He was a game time decision after missing two games with a reported case of the flu. The two-time All-Star was the singular reason the Canucks stood a chance, scoring a pair of goals and adding three assists while his line, combined with Lane Pederson and Andrei Kuzmenko, totaled ten points.
The Kraken had three separate leads at two goals and must wait until January 25 to have the next chance at beating their Pacific Northwest rival, settling for a shootout loss point in the first of three straight games against Pacific Division opponents.
“We’ve got to do better,” said Daniel Sprong, who had his first two-goal game of the season. “We have a two-goal lead and that’s a game we feel we should be able to close out.”
The Kraken went to the well of depth to control much of the game before Vancouver’s comeback, spreading the offense throughout three of their four lines. Sprong, Jared McCann, Alex Wennberg, all scored along with Oliver Bjorkstrand, who broke out of a nine-game goal scoring drought.
“He’s been due for it,” said Wennberg. “He’s been making really nice plays, shooting the puck great, it just hasn’t worked out. He’s a hell of a goal scorer so right now he’s just got to keep going.”
The Kraken, who end their pre-holiday break schedule at third place in the Pacific Division and 18-10-4 (40 points), will rest until a return home on Dec. 28 in a 7pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) matchup against the Calgary Flames.
1. THIS ONE STINGS. There’s just no other way to put it. Staring at an 0-5 record against the Canucks in the face and ready to get the last laugh at it, the Kraken were less than two minutes away from beating them for the first time in franchise history – and snag two pretty important points in a divisional matchup. Then, disaster struck again. The Kraken got the shootout point, but coming up empty for two points in what they branded on Thursday as a big divisional game left a jarring effect, moments after the final horn. The Kraken failed to throw the empty net dagger at the Canucks, who got new life by rallying back on Pettersson’s one-timer. Justin Schultz hit the post with less than a minute left in regulation. The only time the Kraken trailed in the game was when it was over.
The Kraken, who controlled much of Thursday night’s game with a 60% share of shot quality at five-on-five and got five goals from a spread of three lines, started on time with the first goal of the game. They counter-punched the Canucks numerous times. But they are realizing the Canucks are saving their best, amidst a disastrous season, for the Kraken themselves, and the Kraken now must find a way to temper 11 goals combined by the Canucks in two head-to-head meetings.
2. DANIEL SPRONG IS A BARGAIN VALUE. For a forward who merely started training camp without a signed contract, and with a professional tryout offer eventually upgraded to a one-year deal for the league minimum, he’s extending his value beyond compare. Sprong belted his fourth career two-goal game and has continued to illustrate the fortunate depth the Kraken carry across all four lines, and even as a special teams marksman. What will the future hold after this season is complete? Based on his current deal totals (10 goals, and on-pace for a 32-goal season under full NHL schedule conditions), he’s playing like he wants a longer future after this season is done.
3. WHAT DID ELIAS PETTERSSON HAVE FOR BREAKFAST? It might be worth finding out. The only Canucks forward reportedly safe from trade talks showed exactly why on Thursday night, unloading a five-point onslaught in his first game back from illness. Pettersson wasted little time getting to work, status in doubt up until puck drop as a game-time decision. He scored a goal in tight with a screen off Luke Schenn’s point shot. He slugged the game tying goal in crunch time, six-on-five. He added three more assists for a five-point game and the shootout winner. Pettersson will certainly attract substantial defensive attention, next meeting on Jan. 25. But for Thursday night, he single-handedly put the Canucks on his back, demonstrating the value of one of the league’s most talented stars caught up on a team enduring the season path of a theme park roller coaster.
KRAKEN LINEUP, DEC. 22 AT VANCOUVER: