Alex DeBrincat broke a tie game with 2:33 left in regulation on a deflection at the net to lift the Ottawa Senators over the Seattle Kraken, 5-4 before a sellout crowd of 17,151 fans at Climate Pledge Arena on Thursday.
While the Kraken avoided the four-point swing by losing to an Eastern Conference foe, rather than a division rival, no other help on the scoreboard was available with Vegas, Los Angeles, and Edmonton each winning their games to put the Kraken into a third place tie with the Oilers, and four points back in a tight Western Conference playoff race.
Ottawa stormed out to a 3-0 lead in the first 8:27 on goals from Shane Pinto, Jakob Chychrun and Patrick Brown, only to see the Kraken roar back on a rally of four unanswered goals. Jared McCann scored two of them including a first period shorthanded tally, and with the help of Jaden Schwartz’s second period screen and a Vince Dunn blast just 3:23 into the third, the building came off the hinges with sound in a remarkable 4-3 Kraken lead.
Claude Giroux silenced the rally and tied the game 38 seconds later, setting up DeBrincat’s winner late in regulation.
The Kraken and Senators split the series, 1-1. Mads Sogaard made 29 saves for the win while Philipp Grubauer, took the loss on 26 shots.
1. Pin the end result on the slow start. Yes, the game was tied and up for grabs with the minutes ticking down in regulation. But how did we get there? Ottawa came out with a shocking three goals in a span of 4:16, eventually breaking through on a batch of defensive mistakes that could have even slanted the score worse, if not for Philipp Grubauer. The Kraken had to burn their timeout just to recalibrate.
“Our recipe is pretty simple,” said Dunn. “Pucks north and establish a forecheck. That’s when we start to build our game. We didn’t do that in the first ten minutes.”
The timeout helped, though they could have used it late in regulation with Grubauer pulled to rest important extra attacking personnel or diagram face-off strategy. The Kraken were forced to chase the game the rest of the way, in a game where they surrendered the first goal at home for the first time since a shootout loss to Colorado nearly two months ago and forced them into a high-chase game that took two periods to remarkably recover. It won’t help with the perception about how the Kraken play at home versus the road, in which they’ll tell mostly there’s no difference in their approach. But there was instant recognition about improving their record on home ice, which is now 16-13-3. On the road, they are 21-9-3.
“We need to make this building a very hard place to play in,” said Dunn.
2. They’re capable of fighting back. There’s the beauty in a team that leads the NHL in five-on-five goals and is lethal with speed and open ice. The Kraken showed with a penalty kill spark, enough time and defensive containment, a 3-0 deficit in the first period wasn’t impossible to recover from. Matter of fact, reality set in during the third period that we could have been talking about one of the most remarkable victories of the season, when Vince Dunn extended the rally to four answered goals for a short lived 4-3 cushion. Climate Pledge Arena was in bedlam.
“You don’t get to start over,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “Obviously the start put us in a big hole and the penalty kill did a good job tonight and they found one. They found a shorty that got us going.”
“We didn’t start on time tonight.”
Claude Giroux turned that lead into the short-lived variety, and the Kraken were back to square one, trying to hang onto a tie game with a pace and predictability that was extremely volatile. But in this sense, the Kraken earned nearly every goal with one common ingredient: close play at the net. Jared McCann’s bounce off his shorthanded rush, Jaden Schwartz’s screen, and McCann’s deflection off Sprong’s shot all were manufactured within five feet of the net. If the Kraken had any gas in the tank to launch a comeback, net front play was their sparkplug.
3. Rare night off for five-on-five play. They needed it in the first period, and at a crucial time, it was notably absent. Ottawa admitted before the game that they had to hang onto the puck, a team in the bottom half of five-on-five defense facing a team who led the NHL in five-on-five goals. Ottawa got the start they wanted with a box-out at the net for Shane Pinto’s goal, open ice for Chychrun to score off the rush, and a Patrick Brown one-timer to elevate the Senators to a 3-0 lead.
“We’re disappointed with the result tonight,” said Hakstol.
“We’re going to look at the singular issues with our start, we’re going to look at some of the things in the third – not getting out of our zone well enough and work to fix those things on a short term basis.”
The Kraken proved they could generate enough offense to win, scoring three goals at five-on-five but asking for six goals as bare minimum to win a game in March is a tall order. They took four penalties to give the Senators four power plays, though a refreshed penalty kill unit took care of the job for another clean sheet night while also netting a shorthanded goal. Yet, the Kraken found out again about the pitfalls that await with a first period that got off the tracks in the five-on-five category.
KRAKEN LINEUP VS OTTAWA, 3/9: