It was a better effort than their previous game, but it bore the same result, as the Kraken fell 3-1 to the New Jersey Devils Thursday at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Thursday was a frustrating night for Kraken fans. Seattle had the better of the play for long stretches of the game but couldn’t get enough pucks past a razor-sharp Mackenzie Blackwood. Meanwhile, the Kraken’s special teams stumbled at both ends of the ice, and in the end, they skated away with their second loss in as many tries on this road trip.
“The ultimate difference at the end of the day is they found two on their power play,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “That makes the difference in the hockey game.”
Here are our Three Takeaways from a disappointing Kraken loss to the Devils.
Takeaway #1: Better structure in all three zones
Seattle looked like themselves Thursday after an uncharacteristically bad showing on Long Island Tuesday. That night, the Kraken couldn’t connect on passes, they couldn’t get over the Islanders line with possession, and they certainly couldn’t sustain pressure for any extended period.
“We were not happy with the game in Long Island,” said Adam Larsson, who scored the only Kraken goal against the Devils. “I thought today we responded pretty good; good enough to win. Sometimes you fall short.”
On Thursday, the Kraken came out with a lot of jump in the opening frame and largely dominated the play. They were held off the board by Blackwood, though, who was especially stellar in that first period. By the time the first horn sounded, Blackwood already had 12 saves.
A good example of Seattle’s jump and Blackwood’s early larceny came in the first two minutes. Vince Dunn fired a pass about 100 feet ahead to Ryan Donato at the far blue line. Donato raced in with Jaden Schwartz on a two-on-one rush and passed across the goalmouth. Schwartz looked like he had a sure goal, but Blackwood sprawled left to right and denied Schwartz with his right pad. The save set the tone for how the evening would go.
“We got off to a good start, and it was a tight game all the way through,” said Hakstol. “As we got to the third period, [I thought] it was going to be a little tighter checking, and it was.”
Tight-checking games are usually a sign of two teams playing well within their systems, something Seattle certainly didn’t do against the Islanders. So, that’s a positive step toward getting back on track, but it certainly would have been nice for the Kraken to at least take a point from this one.
Takeaway #2: Special teams were the difference
As Hakstol said, the difference in this game was special teams, which has been a problem for Seattle at times this season. The penalty kill had been on a heater and hadn’t allowed a goal in eight games, with 18 opportunities for Seattle’s opponents over that stretch. But that streak was snapped in resounding fashion Thursday, as Dougie Hamilton fired two rockets from the top of the slot that each found their way behind Philipp Grubauer.
The first goal against came just 24 seconds after Larsson’s goal and moments after Matty Beniers had won a defensive-zone face-off. But Jamie Oleksiak lost the race to the puck, it spun around the zone to Hamilton, and suddenly it was in the back of the net.
The second one hit off Brandon Tanev, who was trying to block the shot. The puck changed directions and re-directed perfectly into the top left corner of the net, giving Grubauer no chance to stop it.
“The first one, it’s off a won face-off,” said Hakstol. “We missed an assignment there. That’s one where we have a couple of opportunities on a shot block. And the second one was unfortunate. It goes off of Tanev’s left or right leg as he’s going down to try to get in the shot lane and finds the top corner. So, that’s a tough one.”
Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, Seattle had three opportunities on the power play, including a five-on-three advantage in the second period, but it could not convert.
“I feel like we played a good game,” said Alex Wennberg. “There’s a lot of great things from it, and it comes down to special teams. We have an opportunity to score there, we don’t, and they score two of them.”
Takeaway #3: Kraken scoring has dried up
After getting shutout by Ilya Sorokin on Long Island Tuesday, the Kraken finally broke through with Larsson’s seeing-eye shot at 14:05 of the second period. The goal gave Seattle its only lead of the road trip so far, but it was short lived, as Hamilton got the quick response at the other end. That Larsson goal ended up being the lone Kraken goal of the night, meaning Seattle has scored just once in six periods of hockey.
Part of the problem Thursday was the play of Blackwood, who seems to enjoy facing the Kraken. He was good in a 4-3 overtime loss on Jan. 19 in Seattle, and he was outstanding Thursday with 33 saves.
Aside from the game-opening save on Schwartz, the Kraken had a Grade-A chance to tie the game moments after Hamilton gave the Devils a 2-1 lead midway through the third period. From behind the goal line, Beniers found Jared McCann wide open in front of the net. Blackwood sprawled out and robbed McCann, holding the score at 2-1.
“Right after the PK goal against, the 2-1 goal to put us down, we come right back down and have the opportunity that we would want with McCann the slot,” said Hakstol. “It doesn’t go in the net. So, those are pucks that we need to go in, but the opportunity was there.”
The other part of the problem was simply a lack of finish by the Kraken. Just prior to Seattle’s five-on-three opportunity, the puck pinballed around in front of Blackwood and landed on Oliver Bjorkstrand’s stick. He had Blackwood dead to rights but fired it off the crossbar.
It was one of those nights.
One of the strengths of the Kraken this season has been the offensive production they have gotten from all areas of their lineup. These two games since the break, though, everyone has gone cold at once.
“We had some good opportunities, so I don’t want to get too frustrated over that,” said Hakstol. “We’ve got to continue generating those opportunities and look to finish them.”
Here’s hoping Seattle can start finding ways to put the puck in the net Friday against the Rangers.
Tough one to take. I had to listen to the Devils radio broadcast as the Kraken network was down. It was interesting hearing things from the opposing team’s view. They really dumped on Daniel Sprong for not working hard enough and not having a two-way game. They seemed to think he is running out of chances to prove himself. That’s certainly not the way he seems to be viewed in Seattle right now.