Nick Paul’s 16th goal of the season stood as the game winner and the Tampa Bay Lightning held off the Seattle Kraken, 4-1 before a sellout crowd of 17,151 at Climate Pledge Arena on Monday afternoon.
The Kraken became the final team in the NHL to lose a game in 2023, with Tampa Bay ending their franchise best eight-game win streak on the wings of a rugged and relentless game at one end, and Andrei Vasilevskiy’s 22 saves at the other end.
“We knew it was going to be a tight hockey game,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said.
“They’re a tough team to get inside on. They box you out early, so you have to find a way to get inside and race that inside early. And then shoot pucks inside.”
Philipp Grubauer was excellent in a 27-save effort, far more deserving of a result than what was handed to him on Monday with several high-danger saves. Within that package were two Lightning power plays the Kraken killed off, and two close range looks for Anthony Cirelli and Steven Stamkos.
“It always helps if you get a couple shots right away,” said Grubauer. “From a team perspective, I don’t think that’s what we wanted to give up. But we did it to Chicago, they did it to us, we got to make sure we do it to Edmonton tomorrow.”
The Kraken can’t rest much. They’ve got a Tuesday night battle with the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place, ending nine games in 14 days while going through time zone changes on five separate occasions.
So, is it more of a mental or physical challenge?
“I don’t think mentally,” said Grubauer. “More hopping around in time zones is a little tricky. But nice to be back after a seven game road trip.”
We’ve heard the phrase “rest is a weapon” when it comes to preparation in hockey. It’s going to be useful, with the Kraken foregoing any kind of morning skate activity in Edmonton.
“It’s huge to get a good night sleep and be ready to go tomorrow,” said Grubauer.
Vince Dunn scored the only Kraken goal in the third period at 10:44, cutting the deficit to a goal while extending his scoring streak to a career-best seven straight games. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored on a tip-in with 1:17 to go in the first, while Brandon Hagel and Victor Hedman each tacked on an empty netter.
1. Where would the Kraken be in this game without Philipp Grubauer? It's a scary thought. His season started sluggish and admittedly hit even bumpier skids with the lower body ailment in October, but the high-grade pressure he faced – and turned away – in the first minutes was symbolic of what was to come for most of the night and perhaps an individual season that's turning the corner. Grubauer was quick, sharp, and dialed in for a start that deserved much better than just one goal on the board. Unfortunately, it’s been a trend recently – ending Monday night, Grubauer and Jones’ run support (stealing a baseball term, if you don’t mind) are worlds apart. Jones has received support of a whopping 4.0 goals per game. Grubauer: 2.6.
2. So that was a test, wasn’t it? It’s mind boggling to consider how the Lightning are so good at this, they come off three straight trips to the Cup Final (with two rings), went through three straight shortened summers to recover, have lost significant support in Ryan McDonagh, Jan Rutta, and Ondrej Palat in the last calendar year, and are 15 points back of the Boston Bruins just because the Bruins are in full blown cheat mode. Yet, they churn out a 27-13-1 record into January under Jon Cooper like this is as routine as a morning cup of coffee.
The Lightning will go down as stiff of a test the Kraken have faced this season, delivering a relentless, harsh, and in-your-face approach to every area of the ice. The Kraken had to be a step quicker, move the puck a split second faster, and often times find a stick in a passing lane or a body in a white jersey with blue trim in the way. The Kraken had just 23 shots in the game - not enough in the holster to make a world class goaltender like Andrei Vasilevskiy sweat. He’s only allowed four goals in four starts, lifetime against the Kraken.
3. Eventually, you’re going to cross one of these speedbumps. Maybe it’s not fair to classify this game as a “clunker.” But coming off seven games in 12 days, the threat of a loss grew larger, and expecting a sweep through January, given the crunch of the Kraken schedule was just plain unrealistic. Dave Hakstol spoke of mental discipline on “turning the page” after 11 blistering days on the road, churning seven wins at a chaotic pace. The comforts of home that awaited, but demanded the same intensity from the road, against a juggernaut like Tampa Bay, and in a unique 1pm time slot were going to be a big hill to climb. The situation now demands the Kraken move on mentally from the result, enabled for a quick turnaround where they are 2-0 this season in the final leg of back-to-back games.
The Kraken will visit Edmonton on Tuesday night, 6pm PT at Rogers Place (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Network).
KRAKEN LINEUP vs. TAMPA BAY, 1/16: