Things got rolling downhill early for the Kraken against the Rangers on Friday. Seattle mounted a comeback, but by that time, it had dug too big of a hole for itself to overcome. The opening of the Vladimir Tarasenko Show on Broadway got its storybook ending and rave reviews from the Ranger faithful.
“It’s tough to come back in a game when you’re down 3-0 in the first,” said Jordan Eberle. “Obviously we were slow. We gave them everything they had as far as turnovers, and they’re a fast team. They’re gonna counter.”
The loss dropped the Kraken to 0-3-0 on the road trip, and suddenly the standings picture isn’t quite as rosy for Seattle as it was coming out of the All-Star break. Now, the Oilers, Kraken, and Kings are all level at 63 points, while the Golden Knights have built a three-point lead on the rest of the Pacific Division. It’s high time for the Kraken to start banking points again, and they didn’t help themselves on Friday.
Here are our Three Takeaways from a third straight Kraken loss, this one a 6-3 defeat by the Rangers.
Takeaway #1: The narrative was the narrative
Sometimes the story writes itself, in a way. There was no doubt coming into this game at Madison Square Garden that Tarasenko—playing his first game since being acquired in a blockbuster trade this week—would be that story. The atmosphere and the pageantry were omnipresent for No. 91’s first game in Rangers blue, and he didn’t disappoint the home crowd.
After getting a thundering ovation pre-game, Tarasenko wasted little time solidifying his place as another of the many stars in the Rangers lineup.
Ryan Donato tried to make a cross-ice pass in the neutral zone to Vince Dunn, but he partially whiffed and laid it out nicely for Artemi Panarin to skate into it with speed. Off the rush, Panarin found Tarasenko at the goalmouth, and the newcomer slipped it through the wickets on Martin Jones, nearly blowing the roof off the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” just 2:49 into his Ranger tenure.
“It’s not just [the Tarasenko goal],” said Eberle. “It’s the next one and the next one after that, too. I think, obviously, you know the circumstances of what’s going on, but you you’re not really looking at that stuff.”
The Kraken players would never admit this, but they almost seemed overwhelmed by the atmosphere in the opening period. The Rangers were feeding off the crowd and the situation of adding a star player, and Seattle just had no answer to slow them down.
Tarasenko was the star of his own show.
Takeaway #2: Tough start for Martin Jones got better as game went on
Ever since Philipp Grubauer got injured in Colorado on Oct. 21 and missed more than a month, coach Dave Hakstol has been leaning heavily on Martin Jones. He’s done so rightfully, as Jones has been central to Seattle’s success and has racked up an impressive record.
Jones’s latest start was a tough one, though. He gave up three goals on 12 shots in the opening frame, including one by Vincent Trocheck that snuck through, laid on the goal line, and ultimately got pushed in by Jones’s glove.
Another went in early in the second with New York on the power play. The puck caromed to the corner, and Jacob Trouba banked it in off Will Borgen. All the while, Jones didn’t know where the puck was and was down looking for it on the other side of the crease.
It wasn’t just the goals, though. Jones wasn’t tracking the puck well on this night, and you could tell because shots he normally gobbles up for whistles were hitting off his stomach and popping out into dangerous areas. We also counted at least three plays where he looked like he was about to clamp his catch glove down to halt the play, only to mishandle the puck and have it squirt out of his reach.
“I’m not going to nitpick the goals that went in,” said Hakstol. “The fourth goal is a bounce off our defenseman on a deflected rebound shot. The fifth one, it comes through the crease, but in all honesty, I’ve looked at it a couple of times, and that’s a play that normally he takes care of in the blue paint.”
Hakstol added a Kraken skate took Jones’s stick away from being able to deflect the pass that led to Mika Zibanejad’s power-play goal to make it 5-1 early in the third. The coach also said he did not consider changing to Grubauer in this game, even as it got away from Seattle in the early going.
Adding minor injury to insult, Jones made a nice save on Filip Chytil on a two-on-one rush late in the second period. As he was down on the ice, Alex Wennberg’s knee slammed into Jones’s head, jerking it back awkwardly. Jones stayed down for a moment and got checked by the training staff, but stayed in the game.
To the credit of both Hakstol (for the decision) and Jones (for his resiliency), the Kraken netminder did seem to settle down after the fourth goal by Trouba. He looked more like himself as the second period went on and made several big saves as Seattle had started to push back.
With Jones not playing his best lately, and Grubauer looking sharp in his recent outings, it does feel like it’s time to start giving Grubauer the lion’s share of starts again. Let’s see if that shift starts to happen on the rest of this trip.
Takeaway #3: Kraken made a game of it
We hate to make comparisons between this season’s Kraken and last season’s Kraken, but Friday’s game had inaugural-season vibes in a lot of ways. Seattle fell behind early, then fell farther behind and looked like it had no chance to get anywhere close. But as was so often the case last year, the Kraken did push back and gain confidence and momentum as the game went along.
After Oliver Bjorkstrand scored on a breakaway in the second period, Seattle had the better of the play for the rest of the night, despite the Rangers adding a second power-play goal to make it 5-1 at one point.
The Kraken responded to that fifth goal with a power-play goal of their own, as Jared McCann sniped his 24th goal of the season from above the left circle, an area from which he seems to love shooting.
Then, just 22 seconds later, Brandon Tanev found himself on a breakaway after Donato made a nice pass to spring him at the blue line. Tanev raced in, opened up Shesterkin, and slipped it through his pads. That made it 5-3, and suddenly it seemed like the Kraken might be stealing the story away from Tarasenko.
The rally was too little, too late, though, and the Rangers skated off with a mostly easy victory. Still, it was an encouraging sign that Seattle didn’t quit in this one, as they never do. They battled to the end and gave themselves some positives on which to build for the rest of the trip.
The Kraken will look to stop the bleeding in Philadelphia on Super Bowl Sunday, then close out the trip in Winnipeg on Tuesday.