There was extra buzz in the building, brought on by friends and family.
Four players – Vince Dunn, Jared McCann, Brandon Tanev, and Jamie Oleksiak – all who grew up around the area, helped combine for six points as the Seattle Kraken scored five unanswered goals en route to a 5-1 blowout win over the host Toronto Maple Leafs, Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena before 18,624 fans.
“A lot of bounces went my way,” said Dunn, who had a first star, three-point effort. “All those points are created off the forwards working hard, finding me with the puck.
Like the Edmonton win to open a seven-game road trip (2-0), this wasn’t going to be easy. The Leafs, boasting a top-ten offense in the league, a healthy Auston Matthews and losing just three times all season at home in regulation, beat the Kraken twice last year.
COMPLETE RADIO GAME HIGHLIGHTS
Of course, new year, new Kraken, who won their third in a row and now sit four points back of the second place Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Division – also with five games in hand. The signs of promise continue to unfold for a magical NHL success story, where the second year team gained further traction in the playoff picture with an 11-4-2 road record.
“Guys were playing hard and playing together,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said. “When you do that, you find ways to win. That’s a fun way to dig into a road trip.”
Matty Beniers was named to the NHL All-Star Game right around the time he scored his 13th goal of the season in the second period, helping the Kraken pull away at a 4-1 lead. Admittedly, he said that he kept the news a secret when told by team management, several days before the announcement which was broadcast on national television.
It’s no secret though he’s become not just a blossoming rookie, but larger traction for a face of NHL stardom.
“All-Star Game is pretty special,” said Beniers.
Eeli Tolvanen crushed a one-timer past Matt Murray from the right circle for a power play goal and 1-0 lead in the second period, after Martin Jones came through with several key saves to keep the Leafs off the board. John Tavares’ game-tying power play tally only stood for 18 seconds until Vince Dunn restored the lead. Jared McCann scored on a breakaway with 6:10 left, Beniers rifled a left circle wrister past Murray with 2:35 left, and Alex Wennberg put on the finishing touches at 2:57 of the third period.
Jones improved to 17-5-3 with an outstanding 26 save effort.
“First period was tough, they really came and had a lot of good chances,” said Beniers. “Having a goalie who can keep you in it, make those big saves at that time, let us get our legs under us and really get back into the game from there - we took advantage and he played great all night.”
“It’s a tough road trip - to start the trip with a couple of wins, it’s huge,” said Jones.
1. Matty Beniers, the All-Star, delivered right on schedule. Wasn’t it a good time to break through toward the end of the second period? Just as news was developing of Beniers earning his first career trip to the NHL All-Star Game – as a rookie nonetheless – he showed more signs of digging out of his prolonged slump for good. Eight games without a goal have gone up in smoke with goals scored in back-to-back games – and in tough places to play (Edmonton, Toronto). Beniers effectively put the Maple Leafs against the ropes with his 13th goal of the season to lead all NHL rookies, for a 4-1 advantage late in the second period. Overall, his season is nearly halfway finished and for just turning 20 years of age, continues to pass every test that’s been thrown his way.
2. What a response after John Tavares tied the game. With the Kraken nursing a 1-0 lead on the Tolvanen power play goal, the balance of the game was thrown into major jeopardy with Yanni Gourde sitting in the box for a four-minute double minor, high sticking Rasmus Sandin in the face. The Maple Leafs then delivered a blow to the face of the Kraken on Tavares’ deflection at the net. All of a sudden, the game was tied at 1-1, and the team that had only lost three times in regulation at home all year had life. Vince Dunn extracted that life out of Scotiabank Arena immediately, next shift when he fired a harmless wrister from inside of the blueline. It was too difficult for Murray to handle – off his glove, into the net, and on the board for a 2-1 Kraken they would never relinquish. It started a run of five unanswered goals, where the Kraken showed vital signs of delivering the knockout blow when needed.
3. Special teams helped deliver the goods. The Kraken were only handed two power plays all night, scoring once. They were tested by the Maple Leafs unit five times – chock full of scoreboard goodies such as Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and more – and surrendered only one power play goal. In a game where the Kraken struggled to get moving in the first period, somehow kept it tied, and surrendered 66% of the shot quality at five-on-five to the Leafs all game, they needed a source of season struggles to become a Thursday night strength. The Kraken have won three games in a row, have scored a power play goal in all three games (3-of-7), and pulled through at an 8-of-10 clip on the penalty kill (Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, Matthews, Nylander, Marner were held silent). Special teams answered the bell.
Up next: the Kraken will take on the host Ottawa Senators on Saturday, 4pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network).
KRAKEN LINEUP VS. TORONTO, 1/5: