The stars came out on Saturday night against the Kraken. The unique speed and power of Nathan MacKinnon was on full display in Colorado’s 6-4 victory over Seattle in Game-3 at Climate Pledge Arena. “Nate” had two goals, winger Mikko Rantanen added two, including an empty-netter, and reigning Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman Cale Makar ripped home another.
It’s a star element the Kraken can’t counter at this point of their existence.
“I mean, we know the level of players that are there, those are world class players,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said postgame. “We gave them too much time and space, a little too easy tonight, right? They’re going to work, they’re going to generate, they’re going to get their opportunities. When we’re taking away some of that time and space and defending and making it a little more difficult, that’s obviously a better scenario for us.”
Hockey is a game of capitalizing on mistakes and as Hakstol went on to point out, his club’s mistakes simply ended up in the wrong hands. Cough a puck up to seven or eight different guys and you’ve still got a fighting chance; cough it up or miss an assignment with MacKinnon and the puck’s in the back of your net.
“The first one, it’s a mistake on the power play,” Hakstol continued, “the second, we dive in (over-commit offensively) on a four-on-four when 29 (MacKinnon) is on the ice, I mean, it’s just something you can’t do. You can go through each one, but we’ve got to do a better job as a group on those guys.”
The four-on-four goal came on a breakaway when MacKinnon turned on the afterburners, pulled away from everyone and ripped home a twisted wrister, gloveside from the slot at full speed.
Or as Avalanche broadcaster Marc Moser described during a chat between periods: “Like an F-16 firing a rocket at full throttle.”
Kraken Turning Points
The first MacKinnon goal and Makar’s snipe came 5:18 apart bridging the first and second periods and gave the Avalanche a 3-1 lead. The Kraken battled back to tie things up in dramatic fashion with two goals in nineteen seconds before the second period was over.
In the third period the star power took over again, with Rantanen and MacKinnon scoring 1:28 apart and retaking a two-goal lead at the 4:28 mark. The energy again came out of Climate Pledge Arena and this time the Kraken couldn’t recover.
“He (MacKinnon) was the difference maker that we’ve come to expect,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said postgame. “In big games, in must-win games, in critical games, regular season and playoffs, plays with great speed, great competitiveness, physical, and then when he got the puck he was really tough to check.”
On what turned out to be the game winning goal in the 3rd period, MacKinnon juked around and bounced off a check from Seattle’s Ryan Donato at the top of the right wing circle, stickhandled down into the bottom of the circle and unleashed a wrister that beat Philipp Grubauer top shelf, shortside.
An elite, one-man wrecking crew.
The secret weapon that is the Kraken’s depth scoring will have another opportunity to overcome that star power on Monday night at Climate Pledge Arena in what will set up as a “must win” for Seattle.