Tuesday’s Game 4 between the Kraken and the Stars at Climate Pledge Arena was pivotal in this second-round Stanley Cup Playoff series. Had Seattle pulled out a win, it would have been in complete control with a 3-1 lead and Dallas pushed to the brink. Instead, the Stars showed they knew the stakes and played with more desperation, flipping the script from the previous game and cruising to a 6-3 win. 

As is tradition for the Kraken, they did make a game of it in the third period. It was too little, too late, but if a controversial goal by Max Domi in the second had been called the other way, Seattle may have been able to level the score. 

Here are our Three Takeaways from a 6-3 Game 4 Kraken loss to the Stars. 

Takeaway #1: “Guaranteed goalie interference”

You could sense the game heading in the wrong direction after Thomas Harley scored at 4:46 of the second period to make it 2-0. Philipp Grubauer had made some nice saves in the first, but even with a two-goal lead, Dallas was continuing to press. It felt like a sideways turn was coming at any moment. 

That moment was the 9:25 mark of the period, when Max Domi beat Grubauer over the shoulder from an angle. Even to the naked eye, the goal looked odd, though, and Grubauer immediately protested that he had been bumped by Jamie Benn. 

Replay showed that Benn actually gave Grubauer a shove at the top of the blue paint, which moved Grubauer out of the goalcrease. When Grubauer tried to get back, Benn ran into him again, just as the shot was coming, though that contact was outside the paint and happened because Benn was pushed by Carson Soucy. 

Rightfully, coach Dave Hakstol challenged, but after a long review, the officials determined it to be a good goal. By rule, the failed challenge meant Seattle was assessed a delay-of-game penalty, during which Joe Pavelski scored his sixth goal of the series and made it 4-0. 

We asked Jared McCann—playing his first game since suffering a suspected concussion in the previous series—what he saw on the play, and McCann did not mince words. “I have no idea what the hell goalie interference is anymore,” McCann said. “I really don’t; I don’t think anybody does in this league. We thought it was like guaranteed goalie interference. So, obviously, he made contact with Grubi, and then the puck went in. It was pretty obvious, but I don’t know what else to say.”

Hakstol was equally perturbed and somewhat comically said he didn’t want to get into the specifics of why he challenged the call… before then very much getting into the specifics of why he challenged the call. “I just felt like Grubi got blown out of the crease,” Hakstol said. “And regardless of the amount of time in between, to be able to reset was impossible.”

That’s what we saw too. We understand the rule as it is written and that contact has to happen inside the crease for the call to go the goalie’s way. We also understand that there’s some subjective period of time given, in which the goalie is expected to reset and get back in position. 

What we *think* happened from the officials’ point of view (Hakstol was not given an explanation, so we’re just hypothesizing) is they viewed the two points of contact as two separate plays and that Grubauer reset between the two.

If the second contact was the only contact that had happened, then we could get how that call would have gone Dallas’s way. But we don’t get how you can look at the second contact separately from the first contact, when Grubauer never would have been in that position, well outside the crease, if Benn hadn’t pushed him out there in the first place. 

Recognizing it’s hard to look at plays like this with a level head, we also asked Stars coach Pete DeBoer what he saw. “It looked to me like there was a little bit of a bump,” DeBoer said. “I thought he reset, and then I thought, from my perspective, I thought he— there was a second bump, but [Benn] got pushed in on the second one, and it was outside the paint. So, I thought it was the right call.”

It’s the duality of sports. One team is furious with the decision, the other thinks it was the right call. 

It has to go one way or the other; sometimes it goes in your favor, sometimes it doesn’t. What we really dislike about the goalie interference challenge, though—and this is a great example—is that there is gray area sometimes where it’s hard to make the call. The officials proved this was a hard decision when they hovered over their tablets in the penalty box for several minutes before finally emerging and announcing “good goal.” 

So why should a team be penalized for challenging in that scenario? The Kraken very well could have (and should have?) won the challenge in this case, yet they still have to send a guy to the box because the referees interpreted the play differently. It turns it into a two-goal swing, and if you eliminate the empty-net goal at the end of the game, this is a two-goal contest. 

It’s all very silly.

Takeaway #2: Jared McCann back in action

One big positive in this game was the return of Jared McCann, who hadn’t played since getting knocked out of Game 4 by Cale Makar in the first round. In the early going, things looked a bit sloppy for McCann, who played initially on the fourth line with Ryan Donato and Brandon Tanev. He did have a good look off a one-timer from the top of the slot, but you could tell he wasn’t at peak performance in terms of how he was handling the puck. 

As the game went on, he seemed to settle in and was shuffled around the lineup to play a few shifts with his usual linemates, Jordan Eberle and Matty Beniers.

“First couple shifts, it was a little tougher,” said McCann. “But towards the end there I felt really good.”

Hakstol hadn’t yet talked to McCann after the game, but said he was curious to get the star forward’s take on how he felt. “From my vantage point, I thought things slowed down a little bit for him as the game went on,” said Hakstol. “And that’s what you would hope for and expect.”

With Daniel Sprong now out with an injury, McCann’s return came at just the right time. He finished the night with three shots on goal and 13:11 of ice time. 

Takeaway #3: Not good enough

As much as we want to hang this one on the controversial goalie interference ruling, the Kraken were not good enough in the first 40 minutes to win a playoff game against a good team. In fact, those were Hakstol’s exact words when he was asked about the team putting just 10 shots on Jake Oettinger in the first two periods. “Not good enough,” Hakstol said. 

The play that really sticks out to encapsulate how Seattle performed is the opening goal by Benn, which came on a power play late in the first period. Seattle had its first manpower advantage of the game in progress but allowed Radek Faksa to drive all the way in on Grubauer for a dangerous shorthanded scoring chance. Vince Dunn had no choice but to saw Faksa’s stick in half, washing out the power play after one minute. 

As Esa Lindell was getting freed from the box, putting Dallas onto the power play, Seattle had the puck in the offensive zone. For some reason, Jamie Oleksiak just softly poked it around the end wall, effectively handing over possession for no apparent reason. Four passes later between Roope Hintz, Miro Heiskanen, and Benn, and suddenly the Stars were up 1-0. 

“We had possession of the puck, as [their penalty] came to a close, with the right guys out there,” said Hakstol. “But we gave them the puck, and they started with it. And obviously, coming into the zone, we just didn’t defend it the right way coming in.”

It was a head scratcher of a play, and one of two gaffes by Oleksiak in the game; he also had an egregious turnover to Hintz for Dallas’s fifth goal. 

Of course, it wasn’t just Oleksiak in this game, and he has been one of Seattle’s most important players in this playoff run, so we’re not trying to pick on him. But, it was plays like those two—where the Kraken just didn’t seem to be going the extra mile like they typically have in the postseason—that pushed the Kraken into a 5-1 hole to start the third period. 

Again, to Seattle’s credit, the group battled back and almost got back in the game, hopefully setting a positive tone for Game 5 on Thursday. 

“Every period matters,” said Hakstol. “Seven game series, this is Game No. 4, 2-2 right now, and every shift, every play, every period matters.”

It’s a whole new best-of-three series now.

Darren Brown
Darren Brown

Darren Brown is the Chief Content Officer at soundofhockey.com and the host of the Sound Of Hockey Podcast. He is a member of the PHWA and is also usually SOH’s Twitter intern (but please pretend you don’t know that). Follow him @DarrenFunBrown and @sound_hockey or email darren@soundofhockey.com.

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