Blake Wheeler, Adam Fox and Mika Zibenijad combined for six points while Igor Shesterkin made 29 saves to help the New York Rangers cruise past the Seattle Kraken, 5-2 before 18,006 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
The last two days haven’t been the greatest for the Kraken, going through a two-game slide where they haven’t led a game at all. It’s unbecoming to a nine-game winning streak and 13-game heater with points or wins, when they trailed only for nearly 57 minutes, spanning a month.
“Difference was the second period,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol.
“We weren’t able to capitalize on our opportunities and that’s the difference in the hockey game.”
Perhaps the excuse is convenient, but injuries and health have significantly impacted their lineup. Matty Beniers was placed on injured resreve after being knocked out of last Saturday’s win at Columbus. Vince Dunn and Andre Burakovsky have been ruled day-to-day, reasons unspecified. Adam Larsson missed the final two periods in Pittsburgh with illness.
The Kraken have been outscored 8-2 in a pair of losses in two days without their top pair defenseman, top line center, and a forward historically producing top six numbers.
“We’re grinding and we’re trying to take positives of everything right now,” said Jared McCann, who had a multi point game while centering Tomas Tatar and Eberle. “Injuries and sickness are adding up right now, but we’re just going to stay focused.”
The Kraken swung back on Vincent Trocheck’s game opening goal with Jordan Eberle’s sixth goal of the season, a snipe off the rush for a tie game that lasted a whopping 28 seconds.
Will Borgen turned the puck over to Rangers defenseman Erik Gustafsson, who uncorked his fourth goal of the season past starter Chris Driedger to erase a 31-game goal drought, and put the Rangers in the lead for good with 8:51 left in the first period.
The Rangers sped away with three unanswered goals. Blake Wheeler, and Kaapo Kaako tacked on in the second period, beofre McCann snuck a smooth backhander past Shesterkin.
Wheeler’s second goal of the game, an empty netter, put the Rangers up by three for good with 2:38 to play, and put the Kraken into their first set of back to back losses in over a month.
Edmonton is next – a team on an unconscious 11-game winning streak – and have beat the Kraken in seven of nine games. Eberle said the Kraken are already in a critical situation, despite a winning streak to catapult them back into the playoff conversation.
“Biggest thing, this ground we’ve made up this last month, it slips away pretty quickly,” said Eberle.
“Next game is a must win for us.”
ONE BIG TAKEAWAY
The odds were stacked against the Kraken on Tuesday night, and we’ve begun to understand even more over the last two games with how much of an impact Dunn makes aside from the obvious points, given how much ice time he demands, and the level of his play to generate a sustained attack.
Losing Beniers and Burakovsky suppresses an offense that has relied on their production when healthy over the course of the last season and a half, and puts workload strain on a four-line attack that relies on balance. The Kraken needed a good first period, but more important – they needed a lead.
They never got it, and mistakes played a role in a first period deficit that was too tough to overcome. Justin Schultz’s delay of game penalty led to Trocheck’s power play goal, and a defensive zone miscue led to Gustafson’s power play goal. The Kraken played in a game, coming on the back end of back-to-back nights, needing as close to of a mistake-free effort as possible.
A Wednesday off for travel couldn’t have come at a better time ahead of Thursday’s game, 6pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network) at Edmonton – a team who thrives in a track meet environment and has gone full sicko mode on an 11-game win streak, moving two points ahead of the Kraken for the final wild card spot. Calgary has caught up with them once again, winning four in a row.
The Kraken need health, rest, and early momentum. And to stay in the playoff race, they can ill afford to stack losses once again.