The first game out of the bye week presented opportunity.
It ended with a setback.
The Seattle Kraken, playing in their first game since Jan. 28, gave up Bo Horvat’s first goal as a New York Islanders while finding goaltender Ilya Sorokin too difficult to solve, who delivered a 32-save shutout in a 4-0 Kraken defeat to the Islanders before 17,255 fans on Tuesday at UBS Arena.
“We didn’t sustain any tempo to our game,” said head coach Dave Hakstol.
“We looked like we had the effects coming off a break.”
The Vegas Golden Knights, who beat Nashville later on Tuesday night, jumped a point ahead of the Kraken for first place in the Pacific Division.
Samuel Bolduc, a late addition to the lineup, scored his first career NHL goal while the Islanders were also buoyed by Simon Holmstrom’s late first period goal, and veteran Zach Parise’s 14th goal of the season just 3:38 into the second period.
Horvat, who buried a feed by Mat Barzal at the right post just 1:30 later, warmed up the rowdy crowd on Long Island with “Horvat” chants, scoring his 32nd goal of the season just over a week after the Islanders landed him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.
“It’s not a night that we’re happy with on a lot of different levels,” said Hakstol.
The Kraken, who settled for a 1-1 split in the season series with New York, dropped their first game of a five-game trip while Martin Jones made 24 saves. They may face more “next man up” questions with the absence of Andre Burakovsky after the first shift of the game, seen leaving for the bench after skating awkwardly across the Islanders blueline. No immediate update was available on Burakovsky after the game.
Matty Beniers (out two games) and Jaden Schwartz (eight games) both returned to the Kraken lineup.
1. It’s clear who had the advantage with rest, versus rust. It was the Islanders, who played the night before and shook off the All-Star break rust with a 2-1 win at Philadelphia. That gave them a head start over the Kraken, who were admittedly sluggish, especially in the first period when Martin Jones faced a heavy workload and getting out of the period just down 2-0 was a moral victory. Dave Tomlinson pointed out the body is the biggest key for getting back into a rhythm, and the Kraken struggled to keep up with the Islanders physical approach, especially with regards to board play. Getting to the finish line, then flushing it mentally, will be vital with preparations for Thursday against a red hot Devils squad at The Rock.
2. Getting the first goal was extremely critical. Once the Islanders went up 1-0, the Kraken were left chasing the rest of the night. They had a chance after Sam Bolduc’s first career NHL goal, with Jones and company selling out to defend the net. But once Holmstrom put them up 2-0 after the first period, the order was too tall to overcome with the Islanders size and abrasiveness. The Islanders were able to settle into their game, leaving the Kraken dry with odd man rushes, and opportunities to generate chances with their speed.
3. Jaycob Megna will need time to fit in properly. It’s not a designation of an evening that ended in disappointment for his game, but just the recognition that a new defenseman is now jumping into the deep end with a new team, new structure, and new strategy to fit in. Megna finished the night with a minus-2 rating and allowed Mat Barzal to thread the needle at the front of the net to Horvat, who put the game out of reach. But he also showed examples of a basic, straightforward, elementary approach to puck movement and size, which will be valuable to eat up depth minutes and potentially a key role on the penalty kill, where he is experienced. Megna, by no means, is being asked to generate production ala Vince Dunn. But a lumbering six-foot-seven Jamie Olekaisk has found a home in a system that demands skating to be effective, and Megna has that same opportunity. Sometimes, players face the polarizing ups and downs in game one with a new team to build a foundation for success.
The Kraken will play at Prudential Center on Thursday in a 4pm PT face-off (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) against the New Jersey Devils.