Yanni Gourde completed a comeback with the game winner, with 3:36 remaining to lift the Seattle Kraken to a 3-2 overtime victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday before 18,107 fans at Ball Arena.
“Give the guys a ton of credit – they just stayed with it throughout,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol.
The Kraken completed a four-game road trip with a sweep, emerging from the trade deadline as a legitimate playoff contender with their third comeback win of the season when trailing after two periods. The Kraken stayed within four points of the Vegas Golden Knights for first place in the Pacific Division and have a ten point lead on a playoff spot with 19 games remaining.
“Those are the wins for me where you grow as a group,” forward Jordan Eberle told 93.3 KJR-FM after the game.
Nathan MacKinnon and Denis Malgin scored for Colorado, while Philipp Grubauer turned in a masterful 21-save effort for the win in net, to outduel Alexandar Georgiev, who was nearly lights out with a 32 save night.
Alex Wennberg tied the game for the Kraken with a second period goal on a deflection at the net with 10:08 remaining, and Brandon Tanev tied the game with 2:30 remaining.
1. THE GAME COULD HAVE EASILY SNAPPED IN TWO AFTER A BROKEN TWO-MAN ADVANTAGE. The Kraken were down just by a goal. They had Colorado exactly where they wanted them. Entering the third period, Jack Johnson would be entering the box for a tripping penalty and to compound matters, Mikko Rantanen for mouthing off at the officials, giving the Kraken a full two-minute, five-on-three power play against a tired set of Avalanche.
Enter Alexandar Georgiev, who stopped seven shots on the sequence to keep the Avalanche ahead. Likely, the Kraken were headed for their Sunday death march.
“Honestly we were just talking on the bench saying ‘stick with it, stick with it, it’ll come’,” said Eberle.
The Avalanche were unable to build after getting out of penalty kill jail, and the Kraken seized their moment. Jaden Schwartz, with a monumental forechecking effort late in the period, put a puck right onto the tape of Brandon Tanev to tie it, and install fear and doubt back into Ball Arena.
The Kraken then waited out their turn, seizing puck possession to begin overtime, and finished the Avalanche when Yanni Gourde finished Vince Dunn’s home run feed. Two points, stolen. Check. That’s the stuff contenders are made of.
2. GIVE PHILIPP GRUBAUER ALL THE PATS ON THE BACK HE DESERVES. The Kraken also had no business winning this game without Philipp Grubauer, undoubtedly circling this date on the calendar to beat his former team.
“Special one against the old team, for sure,” said Grubauer.
Two saves on J.T. Compher, including one point blank re-direction in the second period, kept the Kraken afloat. He wasn’t under siege for most of the evening, stopping 21 shots. But the Avalanche delivered sufficient pressure to call on Grubauer to make a big difference, owning a 7-5 advantage in high-danger scoring opportunities at full strength, through two periods.
Throughout the season, Grubauer has been forced to manage games with little goal-scoring support. After the win Sunday, the Kraken have scored, on average, 2.6 goals per game in Grubauer’s starts – a razor thin margin for error. Still, can you imagine what kind of damage the Kraken can unleash with the game on Sunday that Grubauer delivered?
Grubauer, went 1-0-1 against the Avalanche this season, appearing in all three games, injured in the previous meeting at Ball Arena, and leaves the season series with a .927 save percentage against his former team. Familiar chants of his name were still heard as he pulled off another masterful performance. He had time to joke about it after the win.
“I’m still unsure if it’s boo, or Gru,” said Grubauer.
3. THIS WAS NEARLY AS BIG AS GOING 7-0 ON A JANUARY ROAD TRIP. The Kraken didn’t go on a trip that was as extensive as a gauntlet in January, through the torrential peril that awaited in Boston, Toronto, and Edmonton. A bevy of predictions pegged that trip as the undoing of the Kraken, meekly bowing out to more historically polished contenders.
That was quickly answered with a roundhouse punch to proception, going 7-0.
This trip represented a different kind of beast. The Kraken came off a disappointing loss to Toronto at home, went on the road with plenty of questions marks surrounding their roster, and the playoff stretch drive demanding their best if they wished to maintain their grip on a playoff spot.
There’s no better way to answer those questions with a sweep, confirming a team that had no desire to break up any piece at the deadline in the name of a “big splash move.” They proved it with their offense, running up four goals or more in wins at St. Louis, Detroit, and Columbus. They did it with special teams, delivering another penalty kill clean sheet on Sunday to mark nine of ten games without allowing a power play goal. They did it with a low-scoring, comeback effort, beating the defending Stanley Cup champion in Denver twice this season. The Kraken have now secured a ten point lead on a playoff spot with 19 games to go.
“Two to one game, most of the game,” said Gourde, skating with Eeli Tolvanen and Jesper Froden on a line that Dave Hakstol said drew plenty of attention from the coaching staff for their physical play.
“I think it’s the exact kind of game you’ll see in the playoffs, low scoring games, physical, a little bit,” said Gourde.
They conquered another playoff like game against a proven champion. You better believe – it’s looking real.
The Kraken will open a four-game homestand on Tuesday, hosting the Anaheim Ducks at 7pm PT (93.3 KJR-FM Kraken Audio Network).
KRAKEN LINEUP AT COLORADO, 3/5: