The element of "finding a way" has funny way of spinning a story.
Down by a goal in the third period to the San Jose Sharks, already eliminated from playoff contention, the Seattle Kraken rallied with late back to back goals, ending on Vince Dunn’s blast on James Reimer at 1:58 to lift the Kraken to a 2-1 overtime victory over San Jose before 11,720 fans at SAP Center at San Jose.
The Kraken successfully avenged a 4-0 loss at the same venue from the prior month, while getting an outstanding performance from Philipp Grubauer in net, who made 31 saves. Oliver Bjorkstrand answered William Eklund’s penalty shot goal, and Dunn parked a snap shot through Reimer’s five hole just 1:58 into the extra period.
“The end result is extremely important, the two points,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol.
“I said it before the game, this was going to be a tight, hard fought game.”
Dunn’s overtime goal extended his point streak to a franchise record and personal best 11 straight games. The win also helped the Kraken keep pace with Edmonton, a point back of third place in the Pacific Division while inching to a seven-point lead over Calgary, who is on the outside of the playoff picture.
1. THEY MADE IT HARDER THAN WHAT IT NEEDED TO BE: But the Seattle Kraken still got a win out of the deal. Granted, there are no “guaranteed win nights” in the NHL, but something funny happens when it’s time to face a team out of playoff contention. All the pressure is off. They’re playing for fun, or a “strong push” to the end. Maybe for a few teams, players are auditioning for jobs, where they want to be a part of the cure, and not part of the purge.
“They don’t always have to be pretty, but we just have to be sure we find a way to get two,” said Dunn. “Every point matters so it’s really big for the team to get back on track.”
Whatever factor was clothed in teal get-up seemed to give the Kraken fits. Mostly, it was James Reimer, who looked more like Patrick Roy over the last three games, shutting out the Kraken for over 149 combined minutes. Reimer turned away several high-danger chances, while the Kraken repeatedly fumbled on a few easy ones (Jaden Schwartz couldn’t pull the trigger on a wide open net in the second period, with Reimer scrambling to recover). William Eklund’s penalty shot goal put the Kraken in peril. Alex Wennberg broke his stick to begin overtime. The Kraken recovered through all of it. By winning for the first time in four games, they bolstered their playoff lead to seven points with 14 games to go. And at 8-3 in overtime, again, the Kraken found their way.
Credit goaltending coach Steve Briere with an assist.
“Reading the pre-scout, Stevie said ‘if he’s feeling it, throw one five hole’,” said Dunn.
2. OLIVER BJORKSTRAND IS HEATING UP AT THE RIGHT TIME: Four goals in seven games means Oliver Bjorkstrand hasn’t just found his stride, he’s justified for his patience. The leader in shots and shot attempts at five-on-five couldn’t buy a goal in November. Now he’s on the verge of cracking 20 on the season, right around where the Kraken expected him to be at, back in September when coming off the summer trade with Columbus.
“Very skilled player, finds a lot of space for himself to get high end chances,” said Dunn. “He’s very dynamic and doing well for himself.”
He did well for the Kraken, reunited with Yanni Gourde and Eeli Tolvanen, taking a long outlet pass by Gourde – at a near jaw-dropping 100-foot range, and rifling a shot past James Reimer’s glove to break the shutout streak. The goal wasn’t cheap. Reimer barely even flinched.
It was also the sign of any possible previous confidence struggles are non-existent.
“Top corner, right away, that was on my mind,” Bjorkstrand told 93.3 KJR-FM after the game.
Bjorkstrand’s earned seven points in eight games. Just the right time for his stick to warm up, in the middle of crunch time.
3. PHILIPP GRUBAUER WAS THE BEST PLAYER ON THE ICE: Scary to think where the Kraken would have been without Philipp Grubauer. A 31-save performance opened the door for the team’s celebratory post-game Davy Jones Hat to head to Grubauer’s stall. Big saves early in the first and second period set the tone for a night where the Sharks had to scratch and claw their way for one single goal. Grubauer wasn’t beat at all for the entire night within routine even strength or special teams play, and it took a William Eklund penalty shot to get one past Grubauer.
He played a game as determined as anyone dressed in a Kraken jersey to swipe two important points, with Edmonton, Dallas, Nashville, and Minnesota matchups on the horizon.
“Last time we were in here it wasn’t the game we were looking for and grabbed the points,” said Grubauer.
“You can’t waste any points tonight.”
His performance was befitting of a man who signed a six-year, $35 million deal before the expansion season. The Kraken are getting the best of Grubauer, who has allowed two goals or less in eight of his past nine wins.
A monumental home game is up next: a 1pm PT matinee (93.3 KJR-FM / Kraken Audio Network) against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday at Climate Pledge Arena.
KRAKEN LINEUP VS SAN JOSE 3/16: