Eeli Tolvanen scored twice against his former team and the Seattle Kraken broke free of a tight game with a four-goal onslaught in the third period to crush the Nashville Predators in a 7-2 victory on Saturday before 17,335 fans at Bridgestone Arena.
Typical Kraken, rolling through depth scoring to secure a big victory: Jared McCann scored his 35th goal and earned a three-point effort, 11 players hit the scoresheet, and a healthy Philipp Grubauer enjoyed his return to the lineup with a 14-save effort and the win.
The Kraken pierced Juuse Saros for seven goals on 39 shots.
“We had a really good response,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “I liked our responses when we were able to extend the lead, and every time they were able to get one back, we had a response for that.”
Tolvanen though took first star honors for the first muti goal game in his NHL career.
“Fun weekend,” said Tolvanen, who recognized former teammate Pekka Rinne, honored with a statue unveiling earlier in the morning.
“Fun to be back here and get a win here.”
1. The Eeli Tolvanen revenge game: You had to see it coming. How much money was on the board for this one, we don’t know. But players get up for these games. Tolvanen was thrown to the proverbial scrap heap by the Predators last winter, only to wind up in Seattle and then unleash 15 goals in his first 38 games with his new team. He’s now three goals shy of the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career, creating fulfillment of a player with goal-scoring production at the NHL level.
Sometimes, it doesn’t work out in the first stop, and a change of scenery is needed. Tolvanen said he’s getting more playing time on the Kraken, who have transformed his game and a concept with his role. He’s meshed with Yanni Gourde, and for the most part this season, fellow winger Oliver Bjorkstrand. He’s a linchpin on the power play, uncorking his trademark shot for his first goal back in Nashville.
The Kraken showed off the waiver claim of the year, who delivered on cue.
2. Let the Matty Beniers production flow. This had gone on long enough, whether it was a wall that Beniers was hitting, or just a stroke of bad luck. One thing's for sure, the Kraken are firing on cylinders aplenty when Beniers is a part of the act. He broke a 13-game goal scoring drought on Saturday with a goal that wasn’t cheap: give-and-go, off the rush, and sniped past Saros to realistically put the game out of reach at 5-2.
Beniers, who hit 20 goals in a first full season that he entered as a teenager, also became the first rookie in the NHL this season to crack the 50-point plateau. A hot streak by Dallas’ Wyatt Johnston put the rookie goal-scoring race in his control, one ahead of Beniers, but the Calder Trophy race conversation is still dominated by Beniers for the complete body of work: including assists, power play goals, plus-minus, game winning goals, all where he is top-three ranked. He’s taken only one penalty all season, and never missed a game. He leads all rookies in full-strength points. He’s continuing to drive the conversation among the game’s elite first year players, and the Kraken could use rejuvenated goal-scoring production from Beniers down the stretch.
When he scores a goal this season: the Kraken are 15-3-1.
3. We’re not calling it yet, but …. Here come the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Kraken are close. So close. And, close enough to taste it. They own a seven-point lead on the Calgary Flames with ten games to play, but eight points clear of the team who is the biggest concern in Nashville, who have a game in hand (Calgary only has eight games left).
Swiping three points out of four in Nashville was bare-minimum necessary. It created more separation with not much time on the clock in the regular season, with the Kraken maneuvering through a 2-0-1 start of the trip and a game to go against Central Division-contending Minnesota before coming home to host Anaheim.
Nashville’s path got a whole lot tougher: home against the Maple Leafs, then road stops in Boston and Pittsburgh. The Kraken did themselves a favor to win on Saturday, and in convincing fashion. It was a damaging body blow delivered to Nashville, who lost complete control of their fate except for one game in Winnipeg, who has the second wild card spot, on April 8.
Kraken opponents have a combined win percentage of .524 for the remainder of the schedule. Nashville’s opponents: .631 win percentage (highest in the NHL).
Take care of business, and a historic Stanley Cup Playoff clinch will become reality.
KRAKEN LINEUP AT NASHVILLE, 3/25: