If the first period was any indication, this was a blowout waiting to happen.
Two goals by Jordan Eberle and one by Jared McCann were enough to build the case. Then the Columbus Blue Jackets made it interesting, and a near-blowout turned into a near-cough up as the Seattle Kraken hung on for a 4-2 victory over the Blue Jackets on Sunday night at Climate Pledge Arena, closing a four-game homestand at 2-1-1.
The fast first period start was fast enough. The Kraken went up 3-0, poised to run Columbus out of the building and into Elliott Bay, then had to sweat it out as rookie Yegor Chinakhov single-handedly dragged the Blue Jackets to within a goal, and had their hopes dashed on Brandon Tanev’s empty net goal with 13 seconds left.
"I really liked we the way we started the hockey game tonight,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol.
“We came out engaged, played well, had some pace and purpose to our game to build a three-goal lead.”
Facing a Columbus team that entered Seattle on fumes and on the back end of three games in four days, the Kraken got to work on Eberle’s deflection off Oliver Bjorkstrand, for the first of two power play goals to put the Kraken up 1-0.
Jared McCann, fed by Eberle, uncorked a snap shot off the rush past Daniil Tarasov to hit the 20-goal mark for the third straight season with 3:56 left, and Eberle tucked the third goal of the period just 1:54 later on another power play for a 3-0 advantage.
Seemingly coasting, the Kraken managed a low-event second period before the Blue Jackets, with whatever they had left in the tank, dialed up a comeback attempt by outshooting the Kraken 18-8 in the third period and tacked the pair of goals by Chinakhov.
"That’s when you need a bump up shift,” said McCann. “You need a line to go out there, make a big hit, or do something. I feel last couple of games we haven’t had that. It’s something we have to address.”
Tarasov was summoned for a sixth attacker and the Kraken endured a defensive adventure just to put the game away, chasing the puck as Columbus worked through seams and applied constant pressure. Brandon Tanev at one point broke his stick, dropping available defensive stick posture to a six-on-four situation.
Yanni Gourde blocked a point shot with 20 seconds left, and the Kraken eventually worked the puck to Tanev, who put the game away, and an opening for over 17,000 souls to exhale.
“We kind of let the game slip away a little bit,” said McCann.
“Yanni made a great play to block that shot and he’s been doing that for a long time. He does the little things right.”
Daccord stopped 30 shots for the win, including 16 in the third period.
ONE BIG TAKE:
What we’re going to remember is when the Kraken are a healthy, rested and well-oiled lineup, they are a menace. Getting to within two points of the All-Star break isn’t a mirage at this point. The first period demonstrated the sizeable gap in between the two teams – one contending for a playoff spot, and the other – young, but green – on a high-speed chase for the first overall pick in this summer’s draft.
The power play was prolific early on, and veterans led the way in McCann and Eberle.
However, as cliché as it sounds, nobody in the NHL is a guaranteed two point night anymore. The Blue Jackets hung four goals in one period up on the surging Vancouver Canucks 24 hours prior, and used one of their dynamic and young forwards, Chinakhov, to make the Kraken sweat.
Holding third period leads is becoming a bit of an issue, though it hasn’t cost the Kraken in totality yet – they're 16-0-4 this season. But they coughed up a two-goal margin to St. Louis on Friday, and failed to close out the Blues up a goal, with a period to go. This time, the Blue Jackets delivered constant pressure, and turned a sure-fire rout into a close one.
“We have to learn from the last 30 minutes of this hockey game,” said Hakstol.
“We’ve got to keep our foot on the gas, we have the depth to do that.”
Perhaps it’s small potatoes given the fact that the Kraken built a safe enough lead to get a win. But as the season rolls into stretch drive, fine details will need fine tuning – blocked shots, big hits, extended offensive zone shifts, etc - to turn fast starts into sure-fire wins.