The Kraken didn’t make it easy on themselves on this road trip, but in the end, they’re coming home with a positive 2-1-1 result after a four-game gauntlet that brought them meetings with a red-hot Red Wings team, then scary matchups against the Hurricanes, Panthers, and Lightning.
In a game that felt eerily familiar to the previous two losses, the Kraken again let a two-goal lead slip against Tampa Bay but this time found a way to get the second point in overtime.
“We’ve had kind of a similar theme to a couple of games on this road trip, and for the most part, we really liked the way we played in the third period,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “We got through the next four or five minutes [after the tying goal], and then did a good job in the OT to execute on the power play.”
“It makes a six-hour plane ride [back to Seattle] a lot easier, for sure,” said Jared McCann.
Here are our Three Takeaways from an important Kraken win.
Takeaway #1: Schwartz and Yamamoto led the way
Two players really stood out for the Kraken in this one. One (Jaden Schwartz) was no surprise, based on how he has been performing this season and especially on the road trip. The other (Kailer Yamamoto) erupted for easily his best game with the club so far.
Schwartz has been Seattle’s most consistent player this season, bar none. He’s playing a fast, simple game, in which he just outworks his opponent at seemingly every turn. Monday, he was all over the top of the Lightning goal crease, and his presence there played a part in three of Seattle’s four goals.
He helped get the Kraken on the board first when he sprinted to retrieve a rebound, keeping the play alive for Brian Dumoulin to eventually net his first goal with Seattle.
He also was right there, whacking away to create a secondary rebound for Yamamoto’s goal, and he was in Jonas Johansson’s grill on McCann’s four-on-three power-play winner.
Yamamoto, meanwhile, looked dynamic and confident throughout the game, and he was rewarded with a goal and an assist. His marker came on the power play, again, after some hacking and whacking by Schwartz, and his assist was a beautiful backhand sauce to Yanni Gourde, who Yamamoto found streaking down the slot.
“I thought today was [Yamamoto’s] best game,” said Hakstol. “I mean, he had a ton of energy tonight, five-on-five, power play, everything. I thought he was involved in every part of the game.”
“I think I’m just using my speed around the net,” Yamamoto said. “Those guys are bigger, so I’m gonna use my speed around the net and try to beat them to the puck.”
After the Kraken lost a lot of fourth-line offensive firepower in the offseason, there was hope Yamamoto could replace some of that. He showed Monday he can be a key component for this team, so let’s see if he can continue to build as he gets more and more comfortable in his new surroundings.
Takeaway #2: Worst lead in hockey
An old adage says the two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, and we do firmly believe this. There’s almost always a little slump in play that inherently happens from the team that’s up, because they start to feel subconsciously comfortable with their position in the game and might shift to a defensive posture. And the team that’s down tends to play looser and more aggressive, knowing they have ground to cover.
The Kraken all but proved the theory on this trip, watching two-goal leads vanish in all four of the games they played.
On Monday, they led by two on two separate occasions. Dumoulin and Gourde scored at 12:08 and 13:08 of the first period to make it 2-0, but Tanner Jeannot responded at 13:37 to make it 2-1. Then Yamamoto reinstated the two-goal lead at 15:52, and from there, things slowly started to shift toward another Seattle collapse.
“When you’re playing with a lead, sometimes you think about just sitting back on your heels and letting them skate into you and skate by you,” McCann said. “But I think we need to play a little bit more offense when we’re up, and we need to keep our feet moving, stay on their D.”
The Kraken aren’t the only team that has struggled at keeping two-goal leads; it really is an oddly difficult lead to keep in hockey. But maybe they should strive for more three-goal leads moving forward.
Takeaway #3: Just how they drew it up
McCann’s game-winner was a thing of beauty. You could tell it was the exact play Seattle’s coaching staff had drawn up during the timeout Hakstol called moments before the goal.
McCann walked the puck up the halfwall and switched spots with Oliver Bjorkstrand at the point, bringing the top defender in the triangle closer to the blue line. That opened the seam for Bjorkstrand to pass across to Vince Dunn. That pass drew the same top defender back down and created space for McCann to get rolling downhill (as he loves to do) and lean into his one-timer.
It was beautifully designed and beautifully executed. We also love the reaction from Hakstol on the bench.
Bonus Takeaway: Thank you, goalposts
The Kraken got some terrible puck luck against the Panthers, losing on a bounce off a stanchion. In this game against the Lightning, they again had an unfortunate carom on the tying goal in the third period when a Brandon Hagel pass deflected off Alex Wennberg’s skate and through Philipp Grubauer’s pads.
But Seattle had the lion’s share of good breaks in this game, as the Lightning had to have hit the post five times throughout the night, including two that looked like sure goals.
How did Jeannot miss with 29 seconds left in the third period?
Then Nikita Kucherov had what looked like a sure goal with 3:17 left in overtime, when Brayden Point found him off a two-on-one rush for an easy tap-in. Yet, Kucherov somehow shoveled it off the iron.
Grubauer was very good and deserved his first win of the season. But he also had a little bit of luck on his side, and sometimes that’s what you need to get a monkey off your back.