Neck and neck they battled with the champs, all the way until the ritual skills competition required the moment to decide this showdown, telling of another graduated moment for the Seattle Kraken.
Nathan MacKinnon’s goal decided it, and Pavel Francois threw in a clean sheet in the shootout to back up a 26 save effort, helping the Colorado Avalanche get by the Seattle Kraken, 2-1 before 17,151 fans at Climate Pledge Arena on Saturday.
“We were in the battle for 65 plus minutes with the shootout,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “It’s disappointing when you don’t win in the shootout and get the extra point. But in terms of our effort, our work level was good throughout the hockey game.”
“Typically there’s more of these games coming.”
The Kraken fell back for first place by a point behind Vegas, who beat the Capitals, yet still displayed vital habits to thrive in playoff success. Limited to just one goal before the end of overtime, on a Ryan Donato second period marker, Philipp Grubauer was outstanding with a 26 save night.
Alex Newhook scored at 8:18 into the second for Colorado to open the scoring.
The Avalanche, missing captain Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Cale Makar, swept their three game road trip and have won five in a row. The Kraken were without leading scorer Andre Burakovsky, a late scratch with an undisclosed ailment, along with Jaden Schwartz and Justin Schultz.
1. Can the Kraken get this continuously from Philipp Grubauer? The trend says “yes.” He was sharp, he was dialed in, he was the reason the Kraken had a chance. His 26 save effort included stops on nine high danger chances surrendered by the Kraken at full strength. He turned in right pad save in the first period on Evan Rodrigues. He was magnificent in overtime on a breakaway by Sam Girard. Since New Year’s Day, Grubauer has a save percentage of over .930. That tandem with continued success from Martin Jones means a ton, though telling of the Kraken, who will need to provide Grubauer with better goal scoring support, getting just one on the night and coming into Saturday’s game over just two goals per game in Grubauer’s starts.
2. This was a perfect exercise for playoff hockey. The Kraken admittedly weren’t at their best. Offense was hard to come by. Like the Monday game against Tampa Bay, chances off the rush were hard to come by. But the Kraken found a way to hang in for the duration of Saturday’s contest, stay out of the penalty box, and rely on key saves from Grubauer to stand a chance. They were devoid of mistakes that can spell doom in the final five minutes. We won’t see three-on-three overtime in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the Kraken can get there, play at full strength (which is the norm in overtime playoff hockey) was adequate for survival. One bounce can spell the difference at that time of year. Being comfortable in these situations provides a road map for future games of greater magnitude.
3. The penalty kill, turning another positive corner. Committing to a new structure a few weeks ago, the Kraken weren’t exactly hammered with special teams time to kill off penalties all night. But when they needed a kill, it was there. Both opportunities came in the first period, which can often be a predictor of the final outcome (the Kraken are 4-8-1 when trailing after one period, while Colorado is 13-2-1 when leading). When Colorado turned the tables after falling behind 7-0 in the shot category early, we were made aware of what they are capable of, ripping off the next ten shots in the midst of two power play chances. It could have been a game killer. The Kraken instead got sticks in lanes, bodies in the net, an effective Grubauer, and have allowed just three power play goals in the last eight games (another clean sheet too on Saturday, and for five of the last six games).
KRAKEN LINEUP VS. COLORADO, 1/21: