Every point matters.
That’s perhaps the mood was a bit different after the Seattle Kraken fought tooth and nail with a team as equally as desperate for playoff positioning, the St. Louis Blues, ultimately falling 4-3 to the Blues in overtime before 17,151 fans on Friday night at Climate Pledge Arena.
Oliver Bjorkstrand was asked after the game if the overtime loss stung.
“Yeah,” said Bjorkstrand.
The pain was ultimately rooted in a game that slipped away, and the Kraken had in control. They scored three unanswered goals while Yanni Gourde’s return from a two-game suspension galvanized a reunited line with Eeli Tolvanen and Bjorkstrand. Gourde, in his first game action in eight days, delivered an on-brand menacing pace while Bjorkstrand lifted the Kraken to a 2-1 lead in the second period, and Tolvanen followed with a quick-strike goal off a turnover in the Blues zone, connected to the ferocious Kraken forecheck that involved each member of that line.
Bjorkstrand swiped the puck from Scott Perunovich, then fed Tolvanen, who completed an exquisite give-and-go with Gourde for a 3-1 lead. Blues interim head coach Drew Bannister sensed a leaking ship, called his timeout, and the Kraken had the Blues hanging by a thread.
Yet, the Kraken failed to cut the final thread, and a Robert Thomas power play goal, on a screen at the net, drew the Blues back to within a goal before the end of the second period.
“That’s a turning point to get back within one,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “Their power play is going pretty good right now. We missed an opportunity to have a clear.”
The Blues, who have now won four games in a row, smelled opportunity and cashed in, as they typically have in one goal games (11-1-2). Buchnevich, who had a two goal and three point night, rifled a set up by Thomas past Joey Daccord, from the left circle, just 1:27 into the third period. Even in the face of a tie game, the Kraken had their chances, outshooting the Blues 14-5 before the Buchnevich winner in overtime.
“We'd like to capitalize on one or two opportunities we had that can maybe change the game when it’s a one or a two-goal hockey game,” said Hakstol.
Jordan Binnington made 33 saves while Daccord, who has played a ton of hockey over the last two months, took the overtime loss on 14 stops.
ONE BIG TAKE:
You could argue Friday was the biggest game of the year, to date. No other game the Kraken played had implications brewing of a point swing to dictate the race heading into the All-Star break and perhaps, the long path ahead after it.
Also, they were just a win removed from ending a four-game losing streak, which had quickly begun to evaporate their playoff chances after a swift and striking recovery in a nine-game win streak to save their season. Against four straight opponents out of the playoff picture, virtually every point mattered.
The Kraken appeared ready, and appeared to be the better team – the shot attempt count wasn’t even close, registering at 75-40 over St. Louis.
But finishing is what matters, and the Kraken failed on several attempts to put the Blues away, and victoriously validate an outstanding game from Bjorkstrand - who didn't just produce, but delivered a rugged and menacing presence around the puck all night. Dragging the Blues into overtime, only to lose, isn’t a lethal blow to the season. They are still in a realistic “buyer” category if the trade deadline was today, rather than a seller. They are three points back of Nashville, tied with a struggling Los Angeles squad. Their identity is back, and is growing attention for playoff potential.
Instead, the squandered chances to finish are a stark reminder of what may be separating the Kraken from the higher rugs of the Western Conference ladder. Based on their limits, it's a reinforced message that their margin for error remains slim.