Short of theatre that would be fitting of a Stanley Cup Playoff game, the Seattle Kraken and New Jersey Devils, two surging teams in each conference, staged another ending that many won’t forget for a long time.
And again, the Kraken took another big step toward a near unprecedented run to the postseason.
Andre Burakovsky’s 13th goal of the season, 70 seconds after face-off, turned the lights out on a Devils rally and lifted the Kraken to a 4-3 overtime victory before another sellout crowd of 17,151 on Thursday at Climate Pledge Arena.
So what got them through?
“Resilience,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol.
“To get the two points, every point is critical in the standings.”
The Kraken went to bed, tied for first place in the Pacific Division with Vegas, who lost to Detroit. They also jumped the Los Angeles Kings, who lost to Dallas.
Ryan Donato sustained the Kraken depth with a two-goal night, threatened on a pair of chances in the third for a hat trick, and earned the third three-point game of his career. Brandon Tanev gave the Kraken a short-lived 3-2 lead in the third period to respond to a Devils rally which included a shorthanded goal by Erik Haula, and the Kraken survived the second straight extra-attacker rally by New Jersey when Nico Hischier tied the game with 1:14 left in regulation.
Martin Jones, soaked now in the fountain of youth with a 27-save effort, improved to 22-6-3 and is only bested by Linus Ullmark of Boston (24) for most wins in the NHL. Counterpart Mackenzie Blackwood made 36 saves in the overtime loss.
The Kraken, frontloading their homestand with tough matchups, will next take on the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday, 7pm PT (93.3 KJR / Kraken Audio Netowrk) at Climate Pledge Arena.
1. Remember the “Fear The Deep” line we mentioned? The success of the Kraken hinges on speed. They had it last night. It hinges on depth scoring. They had it again last night. Jaden Schwartz hasn’t played since the Boston game, over a week ago. Justin Schultz was knocked out of the lineup starting in the Edmonton game, three days ago. The Kraken still found a way to churn out four goals because Ryan Donato hit the turbo button with his third three-point game of his career, Brandon Tanev scored a timely third period goal, and unsung hero Cale Fleury got the Davy Jones hat after his first game in a month (three hits, a blocked shot, and +1 in 13:50 will get you noticed).
2. Andre Burakovsky needed an ending like that. Make no mistake: the Kraken wouldn’t be here without getting Burakovsky in day one of free agency. He’s hit the upgrade button for this offense. He stands a chance of going to the All-Star Game with the right amount of fan votes. But scorers will go through peaks and valleys, and Burakovsky’s trying to climb out of one of the latter. Grabbing 37 points through the first 44 games isn’t bad at all, but he had just one goal and five points in December (12 games).
He was the last Kraken player to touch the puck before the Devils swiped it with speed up ice and Erik Haula scored a game-tying, shorthanded goal in the third period. Then, of course, he responded with open ice in overtime and brought redemption with a goal that couldn’t have come at a better time. With 10 points in the last nine games, the gravitation toward peak Burakovsky will serve the Kraken well as they move toward the end of an absolutely crunching month of January.
3. The Kraken are still here. Oh, you were expecting the Kraken to just go away? By now? Because that’s not what new teams except Vegas do? Let’s hit the rewind button to maybe what skeptical you were thinking three weeks ago….
“Hmm, cute. They’ve got a fun team to watch. But this is a second year team out of expansion. This isn’t supposed to happen, is it? I mean, they just got bushwhacked by Edmonton, lost three in a row around Christmas, have a seven-game road trip where they have to go to Toronto (Ha! Good luck) and Boston (Hahahaha! Good luck). Oh and then they get to come home and face Tampa, New Jersey, Colorado so maybe by this time we can get back to what we’ve been used to and the Kraken will just fade away and this whole start was just a whole mirage and----“
*** Violent, screeching, long record scratch noises ***
We’ve heard by this time with your record, you are who you are. The Kraken own the second most road wins in the NHL. They decimated the Leafs, 5-1, and dismantled the Bruins, 3-0 to become the only team who beat them in regulation at TD Garden this season. They went 7-0 on the record setting trip. They won eight in a row at one point. Give Tampa Bay credit, who pitched a perfect game on Monday to silence the Kraken transition game in a result that was much closer than 4-1 (throw in two empty netters, mind you). They went into Edmonton and lost because they had no more gas in the tank.
Beating New Jersey by winning a game closer to a playoff-like final, while averting some playoff-like danger (the Devils rallied twice in the third period to force overtime, because that’s what an 18-2-1 road team does), delivered the Kraken into a first place tie with Vegas, and 55% of the regular season done.
You are who you are. According to moneypuck.com, the Kraken stand a 96% chance of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Enjoy their stay. They’re here and they’re thriving, way ahead of schedule.
KRAKEN LINEUP VS NEW JERSEY, 1/19: