This second-round series between the Kraken and the Stars has taken a turn in Dallas’s favor. After Seattle had a chance to grab a 3-1 lead in a pivotal Game 4, the team now faces elimination, trailing 3-2 after a Game 5 loss at American Airlines Center on Thursday.
The Kraken spotted the Stars another big lead in this one, 3-0, before turning on the jets and nearly completing the comeback. Instead, Dallas bent but didn’t break and skated away with a 5-2 win and its first lead of the series.
Here are our Three Takeaways from a tough Kraken loss to the Stars in Game 5.
Takeaway #1: Kraken spotted Dallas a three-goal lead
The first period was hard to reconcile. The Kraken had a pretty hot start and played the first two shifts almost entirely in Dallas’s end. Heck, they managed the puck well for the majority of the period and went to the room after 20 minutes with a 14-5 shots-on-goal advantage.
But they didn’t generate anything inside on Jake Oettinger, and two early breakdowns in a span of just 1:38 both ended up in the back of Seattle’s net. Add Joe Pavelski getting his seventh goal of the series off his own rebound 35 seconds into the second period, and the mountain got too steep for the Kraken to climb.
“The first one is just a quick play that we kind of stab at, instead of being able to kind of take command of the puck and make a play on that,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “That’s the first pass-out goal, and then the second one is off of transition, quick.”
Wyatt Johnston’s opening goal had a dash of bad luck involved for Seattle. Alex Wennberg blocked a shot, but it rimmed around the boards and went right to Jani Hakanpää. A moment later, Will Borgen broke up a pass, but his deflection went right back to Jamie Benn below the goal line (that’s the “stab” Hakstol was referencing). Benn was able to get the second pass attempt through to Johnston, and—although Borgen came close to both breaking up the pass again and blocking the shot with his leg—Johnston got a quick shot off and beat Philipp Grubauer over the glove.
The second goal was off a rush, and though the Kraken had players back, Roope Hintz used Borgen as a screen and wired a wicked wrister off the post and in.
“You want to play aggressive, you want to play on your toes, you want to skate, and so that’s kind of the way that we’d like to play,” said Jordan Eberle. “We want to be quick team, but we have to be smart about it too. We can’t be diving in everywhere and giving them odd-man rushes and opportunities to score.”
Perhaps because the three-goal deficit was built up by such an early point in the second period, the game didn’t feel out of reach for the Kraken until Hintz scored his second of the game to make it 4-2 in the third period. Still, you’re not going to win many games you trail by three goals at any point, and the Kraken have now done that in each of the last two games. Unsurprisingly, the results have been losses in each.
Takeaway #2: The comeback came up short
It’s been said thousands of times now, but the Seattle Kraken never quit.
Down 3-0 in the second period, they finally generated their first good chance inside and answered the Pavelski goal. Matty Beniers made a tape-to-tape pass through the neutral zone to Tye Kartye, who dished to Jordan Eberle and went right to the net to take Thomas Harley out of the play. Eberle then showed his elite passing prowess and threaded the needle to Adam Larsson, who scored his second goal in as many games.
It appeared Larsson had another one five minutes later, as he was (for some reason) the one creating havoc in front of Oettinger when Jared McCann fired from the top of the right circle. It first looked like Larsson had gotten his stick on the puck to redirect it in, but replay showed it had actually deflected off Joel Hanley’s foot.
With the goal credited to McCann, that made him the 18th unique goal scorer for the Kraken in these playoffs, leaving Ryan Donato as the only player in the Game 5 lineup (aside from Grubauer) to have not registered a goal.
Momentum is a real thing, and sometimes in hockey you can sense goals coming. Once Seattle got it back to 3-2, it *really* felt like an equalizer was on the way for several minutes of the second period, and then again once the Kraken finished killing off a Jamie Oleksiak penalty to start the third.
“We had a push,” said Eberle. “You could feel it on the bench, [we were] like, ‘Keep going,’ you could feel it coming. But obviously that fourth one is a bit of a dagger.”
Sadly for the Kraken, like in the first period, although they outshot the Stars 10-4, they had a hard time getting pucks inside. At the other end, one doozy of an opportunity for Roope Hintz was all Dallas needed to put the game away.
“We’re always confident that we’re going to be able to go out there and get that goal, no question,” said Hakstol. “We didn’t sustain quite enough in the third period.”
Takeaway #3: Is Philipp Grubauer cooling off?
Grubauer has been Seattle’s best player in these playoffs, without a doubt. He was also hung out to dry on two of the goals he allowed in Game 5. The thing is, though, he’s been “hung out to dry” plenty of times in these playoffs and has routinely come up huge, bailing out his mates on countless golden opportunities for Colorado and Dallas.
He didn’t bail the Kraken out as much in the last two outings, though, and allowed nine goals in those two games. We still wouldn’t say he’s playing badly—he kept the Kraken in Game 4 through about half the game, and he got better as Game 5 went on—but he also is not on fire the way he was through Round 1 and in the early stages of Round 2.
“I think Grubi, he was battling it a little bit early to find the puck,” said Hakstol. “Even on that second one, that’s one where if we get that save, it helps just settle us down a little bit and keep us in a little bit better spot.”
At this point, there’s no changing goalies for Game 6; Grubauer is the guy. But, the success of the team in this postseason has largely hinged on the German Gentleman’s ability to make the saves he isn’t supposed to make, so he will surely need some of those if the Kraken are going to survive Saturday’s elimination game.
Bonus Takeaway: The Kraken are on the brink
In line with the “Kraken never quit” theme, they now face up to two games in which a loss means their season is over. Oddly, as these playoffs have gone on, every time Seattle has had the upper hand in a series, they’ve crumpled. For example, they won Game 1 in Colorado and Dallas, then lost Game 2 in both series. Similarly, with a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead in Game 4, they gave up four goals in the second period and allowed Dallas to level the series.
They haven’t played the last two games with enough desperation, so now—with their backs against the wall—they should certainly have that in Game 6. Will it be enough to force another Game 7?
Larsson thinks so. “I’m confident we can come back in this series,” he said. “It’s far from over.”
Eberle also seems excited about it. “It’s do or die next game. This is when it gets exciting; these are the games you want to play in.”