Connor McDavid racked up a season high five-points, one shy of his career high, as the Edmonton Oilers scored four times in the first ten minutes to send the Seattle Kraken to a 7-2 loss before 17,151 fans on Friday at Climate Pledge Arena.
The Kraken fell out of the playoff picture in their final game of 2022, losing starter Philipp Grubauer who yielded three goals on the first five shots.
“There’s nothing constructive we’re going to talk about tonight,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol, deferring on any emotional urges to address the team immediately after the game.
“Our willingness to check tonight and be above and work without the puck was not close. You get to this time of year, especially against these teams, you can’t go out and score your way to a victory.”
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had four assists, while the Kraken finished a stretch of three straight games against Pacific Division opponents with just one point.
Clearly, there was no time to mince words from the dressing room.
“Tonight was a big slap in our face to come out the way we wanted,” said Yanni Gourde.
Daniel Sprong lit a fuse under the Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena with his fourth goal in four games just 1:50 into the second period after a fight where Vince Dunn KO’ed Dylan Holloway. The gap was narrowed to 4-1.
But Edmonton responded with back-to-back goals from Klim Kostin and Zach Hyman, each scoring their second of the game, just 1:02 apart.
“We have to take a close, hard look at ourselves,” said Hakstol. “All of us. We’re all in this thing, together.”
Stuart Skinner made 36 saves for Edmonton while Jones, relieving Grubauer, stopped 23 shots.
1. Defensively, the Kraken lost control when it mattered most. The first period couldn’t have unfolded any worse on Friday night. Edmonton scored three times on their first five shots, in the first 3:55 into the game, and were up 4-0 before half of the first period was done. Three times, the Kraken left unmarked Oilers (Hyman, Kostin, Jesse Puljujarvi) at the net to feast on grade-A scoring opportunities. They all cashed in. Philipp Grubauer, who would love to have a second crack at the Darnell Nurse goal (a three-on-two rush), was pulled in the necessity to spark the Kraken, who only fell into a deeper hole when Puljujarvi had nobody in sight for 15 feet at the front of the net. In a game that Jaden Schwartz called “a lot on the line” on Friday morning, the Kraken need a much cleaner start, in games which carry heavy implications.
2. Connor McDavid got time and space, and went crazy as you’d expect. The world’s biggest superstar was seen before the game in the bowels of Climate Pledge Arena working through pre-game stretch routines, and took full advantage of a stretched out Kraken defense. He had three points, all on assists, racked up in the first period. He uncorked a wrist shot from the right circle that deflected off Hyman for a second period power play goal. His finishing touch, a breakaway in the third period, came off a neutral zone turnover. When you leave the league’s leading scorer open, it’s a recipe for disaster. The puck is going to the back of your own net. He’s playing this season with confidence and execution befitting of a record setting trend, and now leads the league with 72 points in 32 games after finishing one point shy of a career high with five points.
3. The wake up call is here. There are 48 games remaining in the regular season – plenty of time to get back on track. But after a torrid November where the Kraken went 10-1-1, the month of December took a concerning U-turn at 4-7-1. That was enough to drop them out of the playoff picture, delivering a night of reckoning. At one point they were breathing down the necks of first place Vegas. The long, demanding, and taxing 82-game season is prone to streaks and lapses. But in a season of raised expectations, the Kraken have been trending the wrong way defensively (19 goals allowed in four games) after getting just one point out of three straight division matchups, carrying heavy playoff implications with less control over postseason destiny outside of the top three teams in the Pacific.
After New Year’s Day: the odyssey of a seven-game road trip awaits, followed by home games against Tampa Bay, a surprising New Jersey team, and Colorado. Another road game at Edmonton is in the mix too. That’s a lot of bells which need an assertive answer, in the form of many November-type wins.
Up next: New Year's Day and a 5pm PT face-off (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) with the New York Islanders.