Just when you thought the Seattle Kraken would have their win streak snapped at six, they flipped Thursday’s game against the Washington Capitals on its head and skated away with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory.
After Daniel Sprong drove hard to the net and Yanni Gourde cleaned up the rebound with 2:27 left in regulation, the crowd inside Climate Pledge Arena went berserk. But when Matty Beniers scored the game winner just seven seconds into overtime, the volume level inside the building may have hit a new all-time high.
The crowd was right to be excited; that was as thrilling a win as we’ve seen from this team, and it brought Seattle within two points of Vegas for first place in the Pacific Division with two games still in hand. The Kraken have now won seven games in a row for the first time in franchise history, and they’re 12-1-1 in their last 14. Perhaps most importantly, they got back to playing their game Thursday after a bizarre 9-8 win left an odd taste in the mouths of players and fans alike.
Here are our Three Takeaways from the Kraken’s latest triumph, a 3-2 overtime thriller over the Capitals.
Takeaway #1: The legend of Matty Beniers grows
It’s almost comical to think that we at Sound Of Hockey were recently expressing concern over Beniers’ stretch of six games without a point. Since then, he has erupted for 12 points in his subsequent six games and now leads all rookies in scoring.
Though he was held to just one measly point Thursday, it was an enormous one. Off the face-off to start the overtime period, Lars Eller tried to push the puck back to John Carlson. But sensing that Carlson was going to have a hard time handling it, both Beniers and Andre Burakovsky jumped past their marks and attacked the defenseman at the Washington blue line. Sure enough, Carlson coughed up the puck to Beniers, and he was off to the races.
Showing once again a level of poise typically reserved for seasoned veterans, Beniers made no mistake. He looked up, found his spot, and rifled it through Darcy Kuemper to send the Kraken faithful home happy yet again. The goal came just seven seconds into the three-on-three period, giving the Kraken their fourth overtime win in their last four tries.
“Those two guys did a great job creating that loose puck,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “It’s a 50-50 puck, and those are— I don’t care if it’s overtime, three-on-three or five-on-five in the middle of the game. It comes down to little battles like that.”
Jaden Schwartz was on the bench when the winning goal was scored. He said he couldn’t recall seeing a game end like that, so soon after the center-ice face-off. “It happened so fast that I think I was grabbing water, actually,” Schwartz said. “I looked up, and he was on a breakaway.”
Worth noting, Beniers did take his first NHL penalty in this game when he somehow flung Anthony Mantha’s stick all the way up into the protective netting behind Washington’s goal in the third period.
“I’m gonna sit him down right away [Friday], and we’ll go through that,” joked Hakstol.
Takeaway #2: Philipp Grubauer is starting to play
The great thing about having a platoon of two reliable goaltenders is when one falters, the other—at least in theory—can take the baton and run with it. Martin Jones was incredible in Philipp Grubauer’s absence and deserved to continue taking the lion’s share of starts, even after Grubauer came back from his injury. But with Jones showing signs of cracking in his last three starts, it was high time to get Grubi in more frequently.
After a solid 20-save win against the Golden Knights Friday, Grubauer turned in a 21-save performance against the Capitals Thursday. While that doesn’t sound like that many shots, he had some 10-bell stops in the second and third periods that gave his team a chance to win.
Grubauer did give up two goals in the first period, including one off an unscreened blast by Martin Fehervary that had us wondering if he was on his game early.
“First period was a little tough,” Grubauer said. “Two goals on three or four shots there, that’s not how you want to start things off. But second period went well, and that’s the type of period I needed for myself to get back into this.”
The German Gentleman made a key save off a deflection with eight seconds left in the opening frame that seemed to settle him down. “They made a nice play there,” he said. “Obviously, [it’s a] timely save. If that goes in, it’s 3-0 going into the second period and might be game over.”
When Grubauer came out for the second period, you could almost tell nothing else was getting past him for the remainder of the night. His best save came on a two-on-one rush for the Capitals. TJ Oshie made a ridiculous play to get the puck across to Evgeny Kuznetsov. On what looked like a sure goal, Grubauer slid to his left in a full split and robbed Kuznetsov.
He also stood tall against one of the best goal scorers of all time, Alex Ovechkin, who had five shots on goal, including a few of his patented power-play blasts.
“[Ovechkin] shot one in the first period from the boards, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’” Grubauer recalled. “He can definitely shoot it, and for us goalies, you can’t really react to it. You’ve just gotta be in position and hope that it hits you. That’s why he’s scored so many goals, right?” Grubauer added that having plenty of practice time against Ovechkin during their time together in Washington is a big help now in being able to stop him as an opponent.
If you go back to the game against Colorado, the night when Grubauer got hurt, he has now had three solid starts in a row. We think there’s a good chance Hakstol hands him the reins for a bit, so let’s see if he can run with that opportunity.
Takeaway #3: Playing their game
THAT is Kraken hockey, baby. It was clear from morning skate on Thursday that the Kraken were putting a lot of emphasis on getting back to the tight defensive structure that they pride themselves on playing.
“I thought we played like we should play, like we’re used to seeing the Kraken win games,” said Gourde. “This is exactly the type of game that we want to be in.”
After giving up four or more goals in three out of their previous four games, including eight goals against in Los Angeles on Tuesday, there was something oddly refreshing about a tight-checking, low-scoring affair.
“This feels so much better,” Gourde added. “Giving up eight goals and winning a game, I mean, every win is important, especially against a divisional rival like LA, but this feels much more like a Kraken win.”
Schwartz offered up similar sentiments to Gourde on how the team played in LA compared to how it played at home against the Caps. “We know we can’t be giving up that many chances and turning pucks over, giving up the middle of the ice,” Schwartz said. “So we just need to be harder together, support each other a little more and just play better defensively.”
They did those things Thursday. We sounded alarm bells on this week’s Sound Of Hockey Podcast that the group could have some bad habits creeping in. But the Kraken quieted those alarms Thursday and played a good, sound game in all three zones that re-established our belief that this win streak can continue for many games to come.