All good things do tend to come to an end. The Kraken’s seven-game winning streak met such fate Saturday night with visiting Florida jumping on the backs of 21-year-old goalie Spencer Knight and offseason trade acquisition Matthew Tkachuk. Knight held off the Kraken, who outplayed the visitors in the second period while looking to come back from a two-goal deficit. Tkachuk logged a goal, two assists, and plenty of physicality to seal a 5-1 win.
That’s the bad news. The better news is the Kraken are still nine games over the .500 mark with a record that now stands at 15-6-3. Montreal visits Tuesday and the Kraken will no doubt recoup and reload.
“I think we’re a little slow to pucks,” said Jared McCann, who scored the lone Kraken goal. “We didn’t have any jam … We weren’t playing the way we normally do. We had a good streak going. It’s time to reset and refocus.”
“Many parts of our game weren’t very good tonight,” said Dave Hakstol post-game “That’s a tough way to win a game. The bottom line: We take a day off tomorrow, get a day of practice and get back to work.”
The “Gruuuuuuu” cheers for Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer began with starting lineup introductions and rose again several times in the first period. Thirteen minutes in the game, Grubauer had defended nine shots before surrendering a goal to Florida’s Carter Verhaeghe while the Seattle goaltender was scrambling to get upright after being flat on his back.
Grubauer had been knocked over by Florida defenseman Marc Staal right before the goal, leading Hakstol and his staff to challenge the score due to potential goalie interference. The Kraken lost the review (best guess because Grubauer was outside the blue paint of the crease when hit, though former NHLer and Kraken analyst JT Brown said on-air he considered it interference). Verhaeghe was credited with his 13th goal of the year. Let’s agree the home crowd was furiously and noisily displeased with the decision.
Florida coach Paul Maurice told reporters he saw it as a “hockey play” with Staal looking to retrieve the puck and easing up as the veteran defenseman realized he was going to collide with Grubauer. His counterpart had a different opinion and both head coaches know the interpretative nature of goalie interference in today’s NHL.
“I felt like a goaltender didn’t have a chance to do his job,” said Hakstol, adding there’s 20 to 30 seconds to make a decision to challenge and that “we needed to stand up [for Grubauer] a little bit.”
But Hakstol was clear he didn’t see the unsuccessful review as the night’s turning point. He instead identified the middle period and Florida’s third goal as a game-changer.
“We take an undisciplined penalty in a situation [Vince Dunn called for slashing in the neutral zone], then don’t get the kill,” said Hakstol about ensuing the result in the form of Matthew Tkachuk converting the second of three Florida man-advantage goals. “That puts us [back] to a two-goal deficit. We had the opportunity to respond, which our team has been really efficient [during the seven-game win streak].
“We just couldn’t get it done. We had the opportunity on the powerplay right after we went down 3-1.”
Losing such a challenge begets a bench penalty for delay of game, leaving Seattle with a penalty kill to stave off further damage. But after Grubauer made an outstanding stop on major trade acquisition Matthew Tkachuk, Verhaeghe buried the rebound to make it 2-0. The two visitors’ goals were scored in 26 seconds.
Grubauer made at least five great saves in the period, three of them after Florida took the two-goal lead. The Kraken penalty killers (featuring a trio of Grubauer saves in the first minutes and several clears in the second minute) doused a late-period Panthers power play. Just before intermission, Matty Beniers had a primo chance to cut the lead to 2-1 but couldn’t elevate a close-in over prone FLA goalie Spencer Knight. Both goaltenders turned in a quality period.
The second period started with promise for the full house here at Climate Pledge Arena. After high-volume refereeing booing in the first period, fans generated Seattle-worthy decibels when Jared McCann gathered a rebound to go backhand to receive the feed than his lefty forehand to shoot and beat Knight.
The scoring play actually started with McCann disrupting a Florida attempt to clear the puck from the goal line, tipping the puck to Eberle on the side boards. Eberle, from one knee on the ice, nonetheless shot the puck on net. Knight made the initial save before McCann roused the crowd. McCann took the team lead with his 11th goal and Eberle tied Andre Burakovsky for the team lead in assists (16).
The chasing and hot pursuit of a second Kraken goal continued into the third period. The Beniers line made a strong dash with Eberle getting a pass to Beniers for a one-timer that Knight smothered. Just a couple handfuls of seconds later, Grubauer made a huge stop net-front to keep Kraken chances alive.
But eight minutes in the final frame, Florida racked up a fourth goal and seemingly doomed any notions of a full comeback. Even the hearty and loud home faithful uncharacteristically quieted for about a half minute before cheering a big hit. The clock was no friend of Seattle and the home squad lost for the first time in eight games, busting up a four-game winning streak at home.
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