The Kraken took another big step toward their first playoff berth Thursday by downing the lowly Ducks at Climate Pledge Arena. In a favorable matchup, Seattle just had to have the standings points in this one, as things had tightened in the Western Conference ever so slightly.
There was a significant slowdown from the Kraken in the second period, but in the end, they took care of business once again and registered their 89th and 90th points in the standings.
Jaden Schwartz, Matty Beniers, Daniel Sprong, and Alex Wennberg (empty-net goal) scored, and Martin Jones made 15 of 16 saves to earn the win.
Here are our Three Takeaways from an important 4-1 Kraken win over the Ducks.
Takeaway #1: That was an awesome game for Matty Beniers
Prior to scoring his 20th goal against the Predators on March 25, Matty Beniers had been stuck on 19 for more than a month, dating all the way back to Feb. 23. But he did get one by Juuse Saros to end the drought in that game, and against the Ducks at home on Thursday, he played like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
We can’t help wondering if the $250K “Schedule A” rookie bonus that kicks in at 20 goals could have been in the back of Beniers’ mind for a bit. Now that he has hit that threshold, it is not surprising that the floodgates seem to have reopened.
“Honestly, I think I was playing good before and after [getting my 20th],” said Beniers. “Sometimes it just doesn’t go in, and that’s how the game works. And, you know, you get one, and then they start falling. So I think everyone goes through it. I think I was playing a good game before, and I think I’m playing the same exact game now; they’re just going in.”
Beniers was everywhere on the ice against the Ducks, setting up his linemates for scoring chances, lugging the puck through the neutral zone, and making play after play that exuded confidence.
Case in point, his goal to make it 2-0 at 10:37 of the first period was both started and finished by Beniers. He hustled to track down a loose puck in the neutral zone, spun, and banked a perfect pass to send Jared McCann in for a quality chance. McCann took a high shot that got stopped by Lukas Dostal, retrieved his own rebound, and swung behind the net.
While McCann was doing all that, Beniers got himself back into a scoring area, where McCann found him standing wide open.
Once McCann got Beniers the puck, he could have overreacted and quickly shot into Dostal. Instead, he waited for Dostal to fully commit, and even after he lost the puck momentarily, he gathered it and tucked it inside the post.
Beniers also registered a primary assist on Sprong’s crucial power-play goal late in the third, although on that one, Beniers took a one-timer that missed the net and rimmed around to Sprong. So, that one was less impressive, but still, it was a hell of a night for the kid.
Takeaway #2: Kraken could use more of a killer instinct
Don’t get us wrong, here, the Kraken did what they had to Thursday and earned two critical points in the standings. BUT… It got too close for comfort at the end of the second period and well into the third, as Brock McGinn scored late in the middle frame to make it 2-1.
“All of a sudden, it’s a 2-1 game,” said Hakstol. “We just had to come in and reset and settle down and go back and play a good third period.”
The Ducks continued to hang around and kept Seattle at a wing’s length all the way until Sprong got his 20th of the season at 15:41 of the third. It was a big goal in the game and a big goal for Sprong personally.
“Yeah, it feels pretty good,” said Sprong. “We played a good game. We’ve been struggling at home before going on the that road trip.”
A game that felt like it was very much on the rails after 20 minutes shifted to feeling like it could go either way after 40. Against a team that’s in the basement and didn’t even have its top players in Troy Terry, Trevor Zegras, or John Gibson in the lineup, another goal or two for Seattle in the second period would have made that one feel a lot easier.
After how the first period went, we would have liked to see the Kraken run away with that game in the second. But like the eventual 7-2 win in Nashville last week, the opponent hung around until Seattle was finally able to deliver the knockout blow.
“Other teams are pretty good too,” coach Dave Hakstol said with a chuckle. “They’re trying to win; like, it’s the National Hockey League. You build wins through 60 minutes… Everybody’s pretty good, everybody’s playing for something, everybody is motivated by something.”
We get where Hakstol is coming from; wins are never easy in the NHL, and playing a perfect 60 minutes almost never happens. Still, we would like to see a little more killer instinct when the Kraken have control of games, as they did against the Ducks before they got temporarily off track.
Good on ’em for figuring it out in time to get the win.
Takeaway #3: Martin Jones did what he had to do
If it wasn’t perfect for the Kraken players, it wasn’t perfect for goalie Martin Jones either. It was a positive outing for the him, though, as he stopped all but one of Anaheim’s shots to earn his first win since Feb. 28 and hopefully build some confidence.
The McGinn goal came from an angle after Jones was a hair late in getting over to cover his post. He bounced right back, though, and made some key saves down the stretch.
Hakstol talks a lot about timely saves, and Jones had a few of those Thursday. In the opening minutes of the game, he faced two or three point-blank shots that could have set a negative tone had they gotten through. But Jones was in good position and made solid butterfly saves to keep the game scoreless in those first few minutes, leading to a mostly dominant period by the Kraken.
Jones’s most important stop came after a miscue from the players in front of him in the third period. With the Kraken holding a tenuous 2-1 lead, Jamie Oleksiak, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and McCann were all briefly within a stick length of the puck, but none of them actually scooped it up.
It came back the other way in hurry, and Jones was facing a partial two-on-zero. Frank Vatrano took a quick shot, and Jones made a big kick save to keep Seattle in the lead. Soon after that stop, the Kraken seemed to find their game again and ultimately skated away with a key win.