Daccord's heroic play in net pushes Kings to brink, in shootout loss

Los Angeles Kings v Seattle Kraken

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 16: Joey Daccord #35 of the Seattle Kraken collides with Alex Laferriere #78 of the Los Angeles Kings during the third period at Climate Pledge Arena on December 16, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty Images Sport / Getty Images

Oliver Bjorkstrand delivered a clutch game-tying power play goal to rally from a one-goal deficit, negated by Carl Grundstrom's shootout winner in a nine-round thriller, helping the Los Angeles Kings squeak by the Seattle Kraken, 3-2 in a shootout to close a six-game homestand before a sellout crowd on Saturday at Climate Pledge Arena.

To simply force overtime against an emerging power this season in the Western Conference was an accomplishment in itself, though the Kraken realized the weight of leaving a point on the table as they were pinned away from the offensive zone for much of the night, outshot by the Kings, 38-19.

"We expect to win," said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol.

"We played hard from start to finish."

Tomas Tatar made his Kraken debut, one that Hakstol coined as "solid" while delivering a hit and several subtle plays to enhance puck possession, an element the Kraken fell behind as the Kings used a highly-rigid defensive structure to suffocate the Kraken attack for much of the night. The tables turned, when down 2-1, they tied the game on a delay of game penalty to Mikey Anderson, who flipped a loose puck out of play and over the glass in the Kings defensive zone. Oliver Bjorkstrand rifled a power play goal past Cam Talbot to tie the game.

The Kraken survived a four-on-three Kings power play in overtime and traded blows in the nine-round shootout before Grundstrom beat Daccord to end the first matchup of the season, keeping the Kraken four points back of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

"Battle level was high," said Yanni Gourde. "That's a big part of our game. If we do that on a consistent basis, we're going to win more games than we're going to lose. We just have to find ways to find more pucks in the offensive zone."

Takeaways from Saturday night:

1. This game doesn’t get to overtime without Joey Daccord. 

The Kraken netminder continued to grab the reins of the starting job in the absence of Philipp Grubauer, marking the sixth time in the last seven games he's allowed two goals or less. His goals-against-average has continued to drop, and his save percentage - along with saves he's made with confidence - have continued to rise. Since the start of December, he's fashioned a .938 save percentage, one that took a significant hike when he made three big saves in overtime to keep the game alive on a four-on-three power play.

Quite simply, in a time of uncertainty and in a "sink or swim" month for playoff contention, Daccord has swam fast. His teammates took notice.

"Joey had a hell of a night tonight," said Daccord. "He played great tonight."

2. Thank Mikey Anderson’s delay of game penalty and a timely Kraken power play. 

Saturday was developing into a Kings chokehold of any Kraken momentum. Once Anze Kopitar stashed a second period power play goal, head coach Todd McLellan began his work with tightening the clamps on the Kraken transition game - at one point employing an ultra-conservative "1-4" setup, with four defenders stacked at the blue line. It's easier to stuff a marshmallow into a coin slot than generate a rush attack against that kind of defense. One more goal seemed grim. But the Kraken got their door of opportunity when Mikey Anderson committed a delay of game penalty, tossing the puck errantly over the glass to lead into Bjorkstrand's power play goal, tying the game with just 2:29 left in regulation.

Hakstol broke it down with Kraken pressure, forcing Anderson into the error.

"We earned the power play," said Hakstol. "We put them under pressure - great play by Dumoulin - instead of pulling it back, giving time and space on a line change, he spun off of it, re-attacked it, that put them under a little bit of heat. You earn that power play by putting them under a little bit of pressure."

"The power play went out and executed."

3. The grit is here. Where it goes too far is the collection of undisciplined penalties. 

Much has been made of the Kraken and the lack of response to hits against star players and life in their own crease to make goaltenders uncomfortable. Eventually, the levee had to break, the challenges kept coming, and over the last week, more confrontations have percolated as a result from hits ranging to Matty Beniers, their goaltenders, and more.

The trend continued Saturday night in a game that became chippy by the second period. Anderson - ironically who was responsible for opening the door to the game-tying power play goal - drew a roughing penalty on Will Borgen, who took exception to Anderson's hit on Tye Kartye. Borgen retaliated in front of the officials, and was whistled for two minutes. The Kings made the Kraken pay on Kopitar's power play goal to take the lead - which almost cost them any kind of points.

The Kraken then took an extremely dangerous gamble in overtime. Kevin Fiala, visibly dragging Vince Dunn to the ice at the Kings net, received the benefit of doubt with no call which left the Climate Pledge Arena crowd in a rage of anger. Dunn, then visibly frustrated, retaliated with a slash on Phillip Danault (the penalized play) and then caught Fiala up high again with a swinging glove after the whistle blew.

It put the Kraken in grave danger on an overtime penalty kill, which Daccord snuffed, but the line between "edgy" and self-control was drawn by Hakstol after the game.

"That's out of a little bit of frustration," said Hakstol. "I thought we took two penalties that we'll talk about internally, discuss it - two penalties we don't want to take. Sometimes there's frustration that builds when you see non-calls."

"Bottom line, those things happen during a hockey game. You have to have the presence of mind to take care of the situation."

The Kraken will visit the Dallas Stars to open a four-game trip on Monday, starting at 5pm PT.

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