On a night where the Seattle Kraken didn’t have their best, they still worked to have the final say.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, who earned his second multi goal game of the season, delivered the game winner with 1:27 left on the power play for a 5-4 Kraken overtime victory over the host Detroit Red Wings, before 18,289 at Little Caesars Arena on Thursday.
“One of those nights where we found a way,” said Bjorkstrand.
“You can look at the standings – it’s close. You can’t afford to lose many games.”
The win did wonders for giving the Kraken an extra cushion, after Toronto beat Calgary. The Kraken own a seven-point advantage over Flames, who are the first team on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture with 21 games left. The Kraken built their case with a 3-1 lead, on a pair of Jared McCann goals with Bjorkstrand’s first of the night, before Adam Erne and Jonatan Berggren rallied to chase starter Martin Jones on 12 shots.
“There’s a lot of the first half of the game to really like,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol.
“We were able to push back, answer, and settle things down over the last 20 plus minutes of the hockey game. Use the time and find a way.”
The Kraken found their way with Grubauer managing just a goal allowed over the final 17 shots, covering over 40 minutes while Jaden Schwartz and Jake Walman traded a pair of goals in the second period after the change.
In overtime, Mo Seiders was called for slashing to give the Kraken plenty of open ice for a four-on-three advantage. With the power play about to expire, Bjorkstrand uncorked a snap shot past Ville Husso from the left circle, giving the Kraken their fifth overtime win of the season – and another statement for a team looking for peace and tranquility in the storm of trade deadline week, which is up at Noon PT on Friday.
“I don’t feel there’s any stress inside our dressing room,” said Hakstol.
The Kraken will now focus on the Blue Jackets, in Bjorkstrand’s first game back in Columbus since the Kraken got him in a trade last summer. Bjorkstrand played over 300 games with the Blue Jackets, hitting the 20-goal plateau in three of his final four seasons before the trade.
“It’s going to be exciting,” said Bjorkstrand. “I played a lot of years there. It’ll be fun playing in that arena. I’ll feel anxious in the beginning, but just going to focus on our team.”
1. CALL HIM, "BIG GAME BJORKSTRAND." It’s incredible to fathom coming off a 28-goal season in Columbus, and managing only three into December, that Bjorkstrand is back on pace for a 20-goal season. He’s got ten in the last 40. For the second time this season, he managed a multi-goal game, and came through in the biggest way possible with the overtime winner. The man they call “maestro” has begun to orchestrate beautiful music offensively, but it’s more than just a symphony of offense that defines his game.
“Everyone sees his skill and his ability,” said Hakstol. “The puck is starting to go in the net for him. That’s important. What epitomizes him is his toughness.”
Bjorkstrand took a puck off the face and returned a few minutes like it was no big deal, Tuesday against St. Louis. All of this, after going through a month wearing a bubble shield to protect his face in November.
“That’s the kind of guy, the kind of competitor he is,” said Hakstol. “That’s the quiet toughness and calmness that he brings. That’s the other thing – he’s got ice water in his veins.”
Bjorkstrand quietly has found stride in his game, locked in at the right time, and the Kraken reaped ultimate rewards.
2. CAN JARED MCCANN GET TO 40?. If there’s any living example of working for your goals, and not stopping when you reach one, it’s McCann and his five-year extension he signed last season. Instead of coasting through his game, his game has actually elevated into year one of the deal with a career-high 29 goals. Getting to 40 isn’t out of the question with 21 games to go. He’s finding scoring opportunities and more importantly, executing on them.
Entering the day, he led the NHL in goals per sixty minutes (1.8) at full-strength situations. McCann is typical of a high-level point producer in the NHL: streaky. The Kraken will take this run any way, now with points in nine of ten games. He could have walked away with a hat trick, passing up a two-on-one with Yanni Gourde and then missing a wide open net at the end of the second period. He instead walked away with a three-point game and second star honors.
3. PHILIPP GRUBAUER SAVED THE DAY. Goaltending has seen cleaner days this season. Martin Jones had to take over for Philipp Grubauer on Sunday in a loss to Toronto, and Jones struggled into the second period before giving way to Grubauer after the Red Wings scored three goals on 12 shots. Perhaps it’s timely goaltending workload management that helps in this case. Jones only saw 21 minutes of action, and the Kraken have two games in the next three days – one against a lottery-bound team in Columbus, then Sunday against Grubauer’s old running mates, the Avalanche.
“We wanted to get Grubie in there, change momentum, settle things down,” said Hakstol. “One went in on Grubie through traffic. But he had a huge save after that – a pretty athletic save, desperation with his stick and blocker. That set the tone and settled things down for us.”
No matter who gets the assignment on Friday, the Kraken will want a clean game out of the gate, akin to Grubauer’s seven saves in the third period which included a big save on Joe Veleno.
A quick turnaround is coming, out of the trade deadline. The Kraken will get set for a 4pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) face-off on Friday against Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
KRAKEN LINEUP AT DETROIT, 3/2: