One day, the Seattle Kraken will beat the Vancouver Canucks.
It really felt like that first elusive victory was going to come Thursday, as Seattle had the game in its grasp. After Daniel Sprong put the Kraken back up by two goals six minutes into the third period, we were certain they would be skating into the Christmas break with a three-game win streak.
Instead, Elias Pettersson dominated, registering points on all five of Vancouver’s goals, including scoring the game-tying goal late in the third period. For good measure, Pettersson also sealed it with the shootout winner because of course he did.
That loss was as painful as they come, and it will certainly leave a bad taste in the mouths of players, coaches, and fans alike.
“They had a push, and you know, they capitalized on their chances,” said Sprong. “Sometimes that’s the way hockey goes, but it’s of course not the way we wanted to end going into the break.”
Here are our Three Takeaways from a stinging 6-5 Kraken shootout loss to the Canucks.
Takeaway #1: Credit where it’s due; Elias Pettersson was outstanding
Sometimes you just have to tip your hat.
Michael Jordan’s most famous performance came when he was battling flu-like symptoms in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. Though we don’t put Pettersson in the same echelon as Jordan, this was an individual performance that will go down in Canucks lore for similar reasons.
Prior to this game, it was stated that Pettersson was a game-time decision after missing Vancouver’s previous two games with the flu. Coincidentally, the Canucks had lost those two by a combined score of 10-2. If Pettersson was feeling any lasting effects from the illness, it didn’t show against the Kraken. He factored in on all five of Vancouver’s goals and scored twice before closing out the game with the shootout winner.
With the Kraken leading by two, Yanni Gourde took a slashing penalty on Quinn Hughes in the offensive zone at 8:18 of the third period. The Canucks’ lethal power play went to work, and from that point on, it was all downhill for Seattle. That was where Pettersson really took over.
On that power play, the Canucks were snapping the puck around Seattle’s zone, and Pettersson hit Brock Boeser with a perfect shot-pass at the top of the crease for an easy redirect. That brought the Canucks back within one.
Late in regulation, with the score still 5-4 and netminder Spencer Martin off for the extra skater, Vancouver’s six-on-five advantage looked very similar to a power play. The Canucks quickly worked it around the zone, and J.T. Miller found Pettersson for a one-time blast and an emotional game-tying goal.
Believe it or not, Pettersson was also one of three Canucks to hit the post in the overtime period, before he potted the deciding goal in the shootout.
The score on the night was 5-0 Vancouver with Pettersson on the ice and 5-0 Seattle when he was off.
Of course, we would have liked some better defensive coverage from the Kraken, but there are times when you have to give credit to the opponent. Pettersson was incredible Thursday.
Takeaway #2: Too many mistakes
Kraken fans were deservedly riding high for most of this one, and after Sprong scored his second of the game to again put his team ahead by two, we too were convinced this one was in the bag. But if you look back at the goals against, there were just too many mistakes made by the Kraken in all three zones that allowed Vancouver to get back in the game.
On Vancouver’s first goal, Justin Schultz played too tight on Andrei Kuzmenko in the neutral zone, then lost him and allowed him to find Pettersson coming through with speed. That created the two-on-one opportunity, and Lane Pederson eventually scored.
The third Canucks goal came seconds after Seattle had a golden chance to take a three-goal lead at the other end. On a three-on-two rush, Jaden Schwartz passed to Andrei Burakovsky, who was in a prime scoring position. Instead of shooting, Burakovsky tried to force one more pass to Yanni Gourde, but it was broken up, and suddenly the Kraken had three players above the puck. Five passes later, it went from almost being a three-goal game to instead being a one-goal game.
“The third goal injected a little bit of life into them, even though we got that back right away,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “That changed the tone of the period a little bit. We take a penalty a couple minutes later, and they get it to a one-goal game.”
If you look at every goal, you can find a pivotal spot where Seattle was either not strong enough on the stick to get a clear or blew a coverage and left a player standing wide open next to Martin Jones.
No matter how well you’re playing offensively, when you make mistakes like Seattle made Thursday, you’re asking for the opposition to get back in the game.
Takeaway #3: That one will sting for a while
There were a lot of positives to take out of this one. Here are a few:
- The Kraken got their first point ever against Vancouver, giving them five out of a possible six in their last three games before the Christmas break.
- Sprong scored two goals, giving him 10 goals on the season and putting him well on his way for the best season of his career, despite playing exclusively on the fourth line.
- Oliver Bjorkstrand had two points, including a nice finish off a great dish by Schwartz on a two-on-one. That was Bjorkstrand’s first goal since Nov. 29, and boy, did he ever need/deserve it.
- 11 different players had points for the Kraken.
Now that we’ve gotten those out of the way, that is one of the more painful losses in Kraken history. They had a great start, scored first, and had two-goal leads on three separate occasions during this game, only to have it all unravel in the end.
“There’s a couple things we have to do better,” said Hakstol. “We have to do better when we’ve got a two-goal lead. You know, that’s a game that we feel like we should be able to close out.”
Making it sting even more, it came against Seattle’s closest geographical rival, a team the Kraken still have somehow not beaten in six tries. AND it was just one game after Seattle defeated the Blues, another team it had previously never beaten.
So, that one hurts a lot, and having it happen as the last thing we’ll remember for the next six days of this holiday break doesn’t help.
The Kraken do have the second-best point percentage in the Pacific Division at Christmas. We hope that lessens the sting.