The Kraken sure needed that win against the Islanders, and when the final horn sounded (actually, the final horn never sounded, but more on that later), Seattle left no doubt as to which team deserved the victory.
After getting shellacked by the Oilers Friday, the Kraken bounced back with a convincing 60-minute effort in which they started strong, played well in all three zones, and had success on both the power play and penalty kill. The win stops the bleeding of an otherwise miserable stretch and gives the group life and belief as it heads out on its longest road trip of the season.
If the Kraken had dropped this game to the Islanders and extended their losing streak to four games before leaving for Canada, things could have started to feel like they were getting away from the team. Instead, it put itself back ahead of the Oilers in the Pacific Division standings and closed the homestand on a high note.
“We faltered,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “Two nights ago was an embarrassing night. That’s a hard one to play in this building, yet we were able to recover from that today and get an important two points.”
Here are our Three Takeaways from a crucial 4-1 Kraken win over the Islanders.
Takeaway #1: Eeli Tolvanen makes an immediate impact
After watching practice Saturday, we thought Sunday would be the night that Eeli Tolvanen would make his Kraken debut, and we were correct on that. What we got wrong was who would come out of the lineup to make space for the Finnish newcomer. Ryan Donato was rotating in and out of line rushes Saturday, but Morgan Geekie was the one who ended up watching the game against the Isles in street clothes.
Fair or not for Geekie, Tolvanen—claimed off waivers from the Predators on Dec. 12—was well overdue to get into his first game. Getting him in meant somebody had to sit. The move worked wonders for the Kraken, as Tolvanen had a memorable debut performance.
With the game tied 1-1 early in the second period and Seattle on the power play, Tolvanen set up in the right circle. Vince Dunn laid a pass right in Tolvanen’s wheelhouse, and the 23-year-old unloaded, launching a missile past Ilya Sorokin who coincidentally was having an outstanding game.
“The power-play goal, you can’t teach that,” said Hakstol. “That’s an ability that he has, and that was heavy. He got all of that, and he beat a good goaltender on that play.”
But it wasn’t just about the goal for Tolvanen, who skated on the third line with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Yanni Gourde for 12:53 of ice time. Tolvanen was effective even in the defensive zone, where he made two big shot blocks.
“What I liked more [than the goal], probably— I know he can do that,” said Hakstol. “I didn’t know he was willing to block shots. He blocked a couple big shots from the line, he managed the puck well, he checked pretty well. So, you know, from top to bottom, that’s a nice start for him.”
It’s an impressive first outing for a guy playing with a new team and seeing his first game action since Nov. 19, when he played just 9:23 for Nashville against Tampa Bay.
“Things didn’t go well in Nashville, and I kind of got a fresh start,” Tolvanen said. “And you know, we’ve been all working hard for the last two weeks here with all the coaches and just getting back into game shape. I’ve got to say thanks to those guys. It’s been long skates, but I felt really good since the first time I hopped on the ice. So, it was definitely worth it to skate a couple weeks before hopping in the game.”
Tolvanen meshed well with his linemates. “It’s new for him, it’s a new team and first game with us, but I thought we tried to keep it simple and just work hard and compete out there,” said Bjorkstrand, who also scored a needed goal. “We’re going to keep talking if we’re going to keep playing together and find that chemistry, but I thought it was there, and he’s fun to play with.”
With the eventual game-winning goal, Tolvanen was named the second star of the game and was given the Davy Jones hat in the dressing room.
The second star meant he got to yeet his first fish. Asked how he graded his yeeting, Tolvanen said, “Solid A.”
After that debut, we would be willing to guess Tolvanen will not have to wait another month and a half before he sees his next NHL game.
Takeaway #2: A good night for special teams (finally)
Things had been going horrendously for Seattle on both the penalty kill and the power play. Correct us if we’re wrong in the comment section, but by our count, we *believe* the Kraken hadn’t scored a power-play goal since Dec. 11 against Florida. Ironically, that was one day before Seattle claimed Tolvanen, who had been healthy scratched every game before Sunday.
The power play got off the schneid with Tolvanen’s goal, and Seattle’s 31st-ranked PK finally pitched a shutout with two successful kills.
As we mentioned in Saturday’s Practice Notebook, the coaching staff changed its tactics for this one, switching from a wedge-plus-one to a more traditional four-man box. The change worked, at least for one game.
“We did some things a little bit differently,” Hakstol said. “Dave [Lowry] adjusted some things yesterday that we worked on in practice, and now, you know, there’s going to be some good pieces there that we can build off of for sure.”
Still, Hakstol knows there’s more improvement needed from the PK. “You don’t change things and then do everything right all in one day. It’s a longer process than that, but the bottom line is guys did the job tonight, and now we can continue pushing forward.”
Takeaway #3: In-arena hijinks
There were a few very strange things that happened during this game. First, Dunn had a good look in the opening period and fired a shot that Sorokin stopped with his left pad. Somebody in game operations jumped the gun and accidentally hit the goal horn button, sending a jolt through the arena. When you aren’t expecting the ferry horn to sound, it is very startling, so it caused a good chuckle for many in attendance.
The second abnormality came with about six minutes left in the game, when suddenly we time warped, and the clock jumped ahead to under a minute remaining. It ticked all the way down to zero, and the home fans comically got up and cheered for what they believed was a win. Public address announcer Chet Buchanan quickly got on the horn and said, “The game is not over. There was a clock malfunction.”
The clock was adjusted, and the rest of the game was played out, as the Kraken defended well during New York’s late six-on-five push.
Yet, the shenanigans didn’t end there. After Brandon Tanev had sealed the game with an empty-net goal to make it 4-1, the clock oddly stopped with 2.2 seconds left, despite no whistle being blown. Recognizing the game should have ended, the referees just called it off, and post-game celebrations began, even though the final horn never sounded.
It was a bizarre way to end the game, but it took nothing away from a desperately needed 60-minute effort for the Kraken. Now, they head out on the road for two weeks, with their first stop in… [gulp]… Edmonton to take on Connor McDavid and the Oilers once again.