…And a BIG exhale from the home faithful. The Seattle Kraken badly needed the two points they collected Thursday, getting a rare shootout victory over the New York Islanders for a 4-3 win. The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for Seattle and eased the pain of a devastating overtime loss in Edmonton on Wednesday.
“Coming out of last night, that was a disappointing loss,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “We felt like we did so many really good things there. But you know, true to the group in here, we addressed a couple of things that we felt like we could do better, and then we said, ‘Let’s turn the page.’”
Kailer Yamamoto was the star in this one, scoring the tying goal at 4:50 of the third period, assisting on Matty Beniers’s power-play goal, and scoring the deciding goal in an extended eight-round shootout.
It’s wild to think how thin the margin has been in both games of this back-to-back series against the Oilers and Islanders. A couple bounces in either direction, and the Kraken could have come out with any number of points between zero and four. They will gladly accept three out of four, considering the Wednesday stinger.
Here are our Three Takeaways from a 4-3 Kraken win over the Islanders, their first shootout win since April 16, 2022.
Takeaway #1 (Curtis): Yamamoto delivers two “one-point” plays
Yamamoto delivered the team a much-needed two points with two separate key plays late in the game.
The first play came as Seattle was trailing 3-2 in third period. Yamamoto took the ice with his power play unit, and together they hemmed the Islanders in their zone for over a minute, escalating the pressure on tiring penalty killers. As a result, Jaden Schwartz was quicker to retrieve a deflected shot in the corner, scan the defense, and find Yamamoto open in the slot between defenders.
“Their penalty kill was gassed because we were able to retrieve pucks and keep possession,” Hakstol said. “If you look at the play we scored on, it was a really good play by [Schwartz] getting it back inside on a retrieval with tired penalty killers trying to defend.”
Yamamoto took it from there, showing patience and skill to work to his backhand and elevate the shot past Varlamov.
Yamamoto didn’t get significant power-play time during his tenure with the Oilers given the depth of high-end skill in Edmonton, but we had a suspicion coming into the season that he had some untapped potential to help on the man advantage. That has proven true over Seattle’s first 18 games.
Yamamoto has carved out a crucial special-teams role as a zone-entry player and flexible net-front or bumper presence. When he’s on the ice, Seattle’s power play generates shot quality 22 percent better than league average–in particular creating a large volume of chances net front. When he’s not out there, the net-front play struggles, and Seattle’s power play generates shot quality 34 percent below league average.
This difference is not all attributable to Yamamoto, of course. HockeyViz isolates his personal power play value at approximately 4 percent better than league average. But the shot chart underscores the value he has delivered in stark fashion. In this one, Yamamoto’s score leveled the game and pushed it to overtime, earning Seattle a point.
Yamamoto’s second “one-point” play came in the shootout. As mentioned above, his score in the eighth round was the difference and handed Seattle the win. When asked what his approach was, Yamamoto stressed that he was trying to stay flexible: “I’m looking for anything, whichever way [the goalie is] cheating.”
Yamamoto approached Varlamov from the right and drifted toward the middle of the ice. As he reached the slot, he sensed an opening glove side and shot back across the grain to beat the Islanders goaltender. In doing so, he delivered a huge win a night after perhaps Seattle’s toughest loss.
“Just to be able to contribute to the team and the team’s success, it feels really good,” Yamamoto said.
Where does this game rank in his career? “Pretty high, honestly.”
Takeaway #2 (Darren): A big night for the power play
The Kraken tied a franchise record for power-play goals in a game by converting three times with the manpower advantage Thursday. They also gave up two to New York’s power play, but hey… that’s a plus-one on the night for the special teams!
“I think both units are finding that groove,” said Vince Dunn. “I think we have really good key pieces on [my] unit, and everyone brings a different element.”
Things are definitely clicking for the power play, and a good sign that the Kraken can keep it going is that they’re scoring power-play goals in a variety of ways. Matty Beniers scored the first PPG of the night on a “Jared McCann special,” taking a pass from Dunn at the top of the left circle, rolling toward Varlamov, and ripping it over his shoulder.
That “Jared McCann special” became way too predictable last season, so it was good to see Wennberg finish off a great pass by Bjorkstrand at the net front, then Schwartz setting up Yamamoto with one of his classic puck retrievals (we’re starting to think we should call goals like that the “Jaden Schwartz special”).
After finishing 18th in the league in power-play percentage last season, the Kraken have climbed to seventh this season, converting 26.8 percent of the time.
Takeaway #3 (Darren): Grubauer’s nice read
It wasn’t a perfect outing by Philipp Grubauer, and at .870, he registered his fourth game in a row with a save percentage below .900. He came up big in the overtime period, though, and stuffed Noah Dobson to close out the shootout in the eighth round.
Interestingly, Grubauer’s best “play” of the night didn’t technically earn him a save. With the Kraken running around like chickens without heads for a lot of the OT period (Hakstol said they may want to “burn the tape” from that extra frame), they appeared to have hung their goalie out to dry around the 1:40 mark.
Mathew Barzal was dancing around in the corner to Grubauer’s left. McCann and Schwartz both drifted toward him, leaving Bjorkstrand as the lone soldier available to cover Sebastian Aho. But Bjorkstrand fell down, leaving Aho all alone in the slot for what looked like a sure goal.
Grubauer read the play perfectly and fired his stick out into the passing lane, breaking up the opportunity before it got to Aho.
“Kudos to Grubi on that,” Hakstol said. “There wasn’t a lot going either way, but they had a couple looks.”
We think Hakstol downplayed that a little. When we watched it live, we saw Aho breaking in, Barzal twirling, and Bjorkstrand falling down, and we started gathering our belongings to head to the exit with another painful defeat in tow.
Instead, it became an innocuous play in the end, and Grubauer held on just long enough to get the second point.
Worth noting, he also got a piece of an Adam Pelech howitzer early in the extra frame and stopped a Bo Horvat breakaway offering in the closing minutes for good measure.