Matty Beniers and Jordan Eberle combined for five points, while Beniers buried the eventual game winner with 13:12 left in regulation to help the Seattle Kraken outlast the red hot Vancouver Canucks in a 4-3 win before 18,857 at Rogers Arena on Saturday.
The win opened the door for the Kraken to jump into a tie for a wild card spot while the season is still very young, but approaching an important Thanksgiving week checkpoint that typically defines emerging teams in playoff contention. They became the first team to hand the Canucks, who entered the game with the league’s leading offense, their first loss in regulation on home ice, and have won back to back games.
Philipp Grubauer turned away 21 shots while Thatcher Demko took his first loss at the hands of the Kraken in his career with on 22 saves.
Takeaways from the game:
1. The stars did their thing. The Kraken need big games out of Matty Beniers and Jordan Eberle to achieve sustain success. You can’t ask them to carry the team while the other three lines sit back and watch. Their identity is depth, top to bottom. But a struggling Beniers, who couldn’t buy a goal for all but one of his first 17 games, and Eberle, who had gone dry for 14 of the first 15 games, limited the Kraken offense.
On Saturday, they began to show signs of coming alive. Beniers, who has scored in back to back games, uncorked a snap shot on Demko that showed signs of a confident, young forward who is perhaps on the verge of a breakout. Scorers can be streaky after all. It was Beniers’ first even strength goal of the season, added to a pair of power play goals that helped him get on the board.
Eberle did his thing – setting up Beniers and littering the scoresheet. Eberle won a forecheck in the corner, the Canucks turned the puck over, and Eberle’s sole takeaway fed Beniers, wide open for the two-goal advantage.
It’s no surprise that wins will come when your stars contribute: Beniers, last year, scored 20 of his 24 goals in Kraken wins. For Eberle: 17 of last year’s 20 goals came in those wins.
2. No two-goal blown leads. Six times this season, the Kraken held a multi-goal lead and saw it go up in smoke – a tad alarming, for a team trying to emerge from a slow start and into the collection of playoff contenders. Such examples included a faulty penalty kill at Detroit, goals on back to back shifts against at Florida, and a blown face-off in an extra attacker situation at Edmonton.
However, the Kraken steered away from those habits on Saturday. But they had to sweat it out a little bit after the Canucks earned a fluky bounce late in the third period to cut the lead to a goal, then line up Filip Hronek’s cannon before the final horn on an offensive zone face-off win. But overall: the Kraken stayed out of the box for all but four minutes in the game. When they sunk into penalty issues in the third period, the penalty kills and Grubauer arrived on the scene to block shots and stop an Elias Pettersson blast.
3. Can this be the start of a run? It’s starting to come together. Yes, the game of “what ifs” only apply in an alternate universe, but the reality from this week shows the Kraken are one simple corrected miscue away from three wins in a row. They took three of four points in their first back to back situation, then snagged two points against a Canucks team many are claiming as the real deal.
Though Arizona and Anaheim have games in hand, they now have company as the Kraken just tied them for the final wild card spot. Coming out of the Edmonton and Colorado stress test, they are in a stretch of playing six games against four teams with losing records. The other two games are against the Canucks. Important points are on the table, ready to be swiped, and the Kraken have full arms (or, tentacles) outreached with their stars trending, their power play (though quiet on Saturday) operating at a hot level, and depth beginning to kick in.
They are becoming ripe for a run.