Kraken Hot Start
Within the first minute Seattle’s Oliver Bjorkstrand fires two testing shots on Colorado goalie Alexandar Georgiev, and a third Kraken attempt slides inches wide.
After Jordan Eberle was boarded by Matt Nieto, the Kraken reversed a non-shooting trend from Saturday’s game, firing three more shots on goal. They were aided by a pair of deft keep-ins by D-man Justin Schultz.
Back at even strength, the pressure paid dividends at 3:54. Will Borgen’s left circle dart eluded Georgiev and ripped the cords inside the right post. 1-0 Kraken, with assists to Adam Larsson and Brandon Tanev. The Kraken have now scored first in all four games. The last time that happened in the playoffs (by Toronto), Seattle’s hockey team was the Metropolitans.
Direcly after the center ice faceoff, Alex Newhook took an ill-advised high sticking penalty. Two more Kraken attempts raised their shots-on-goal dominance to 11-1, six minutes into the contest.
At 7:23, Yanni Gourde put a bear hug on Bowen Byram behind the Colorado net and wouldn’t let go. Result: roughing minor. A minute later, Jared McCann was foiled by Georgiev’s blocker on a shorthanded breakaway. Well after the shot, he was plastered into the glass by star Avs defenseman Cale Makar. While McCann lay prone in the far corner, Makar was assessed a major penalty.
By the time McCann skated off under his own power, the NHL Situation Room had downgraded Makar’s hit to an interference minor. No one knew at the time that McCann, Seattle’s 40-goal scorer in the regular season, wouldn’t play another shift.
Once the Gourde penalty ended, the Kraken doubled their lead on the truncated power play. From the top inside edge of the left circle, Daniel Sprong aimed top glove on Georgiev, and beat him in the same section of the net as Borgen had. Schultz drew the assist – he’s recorded a helper in all four games – and the Kraken lead 2-0 at 10:09.
By the late stages of the first period, the Climate Pledge Arena crowd had identified their first villian. Makar was the recipient of lusty boos each time he touched the puck. Six-foot-seven Seattle defenseman Jamie Oleksiak did his share of reaching out, laying a heavy hit on elusive superstar Nathan MacKinnon.
Every stoppage of play in the final minutes was accompanied by a scrum, including a tussle as the horn sounded. Hatred has arrived in this series. In their best 20 minutes of the playoffs, Seattle outhit Colorado 15-12, outshot them 18-8, and outscored them 2-0.
That scrum at the end of the opening 20 cost Colorado a minor penalty to start period two. For the first time in the series, the visitors look undisciplined, even rattled. But Seattle can’t add to its lead on power play number four.
Now the question is whether the Avs can tilt the ice back in their favor, as the did in rallying to win games two and three.
Lusty booing update: Cale Makar is touching the puck, and the fans respond. Seven minutes in, he registers Colorado’s first shot on goal of the period. Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer, who we haven’t had to mention much, is nine for nine on saves. At the other end, three Avs converge on new dad Morgan Geekie as he pokes at a puck under Georgiev’s glove.
The pace has slowed, which favors the team ahead by two goals. Second period shots are 9-2 Kraken with 8:46 remaining in the middle period, 27-10 for the game. Much of the credit goes to a suffocating Seattle defense around Grubauer, that had blocked 10 shots to this point.
From between the hashes after a pretty rush, Colorado’s Mikko Rantenen beats Grubauer to cut the Seattle lead to 2-1 at 14:09. His third goal in two games, and fourth of the series, is assisted by MacKinnon and Evan Rodrigues. The next goal could determine the length of this series.
Three minutes later, Gourde has his own chance from between the hashes, but Georgiev makes the save.
Celebrity sightings: Pearl Jam guitarist Michael McCready, Sue Bird (Storm), Bobby Wagner (Seahawks), Megan Rapinoe (Reign).
The Avs go on their second power play, a hold of Rantanen by Borgen at 17:13. With :49 left in the period and just two seconds on the Borgen minor, it’s that man Rantanen again. His left circle shot beats Grubauer cleanly for back-to-back two goal games. The second period ends with the Kraken leading in shots, 30-14, but no longer where it counts. We’re 2-2 heading into the final (?) 20 minutes.
The free space is shrinking, the scoring chances are dwindling, the tension is rising. The entire Kraken season could ride on which team scores next.
At 6:27, Seattle’s Larsson high-sticks Logan O’Connor. The Kraken have to kill a penalty, and they don’t have Larsson to help. Tanev is down and hurting after blocking a shot, so of course the puck comes to him in the slot. He rises, fires the puck down the ice, then doubles over in pain. Tanev, however, does not leave the ice. His second clear helps finish off the kill.
A mass of humanity at the Colorado net with nine minutes left. From the crease, Jaden Schwartz and later Tanev push at the puck and everyone in a Colorado sweater. The net comes off its moorings. The whistle blows. But wait – an overhead replay, shown several times on the twin video screens, shows the puck clearly dribbling over the goal line. After an ice clearing stoppage – to increase the anticipation – comes the referee’s ruling: the puck had been covered and play whistled dead, so there is no goal. We remain tied 2-2.
Five minutes left. Grubauer comes up with his two most clutch saves of the night, one a blocker beauty on a change-of-pace deflection. Down to the other end, where Georgiev stones Larsson from in close. 4:44 left. Overtime, anyone?
Overtime yes. The Kraken avert disaster with just over a minute left. Eeli Tolvanen stops MacKinnon with a solid hit, then turns the puck over. Borgen comes to the rescue, giving up his body to block Andrew Cogliano’s slot shot. Regulation ends 2-2. Shots through 60: Kraken 39, Avs 21. Free hockey coming up.
Schwartz busts in from the left side; save Georgiev, but Colorado’s Josh Manson is called for tripping. The Kraken begin a power play 1:59 into the extra session.
The power play starts tentative, and the Avs almost steal a cross-ice pass at the blueline. But they don’t. Eberle feeds Schwartz, but his in-close try is blocked. Eberle, standing to the left of the cage, finds the puck has squirted back onto his blade. Eberle takes advantage of the broken play to score the OT winner, Seattle’s second power play marker.
The Kraken win 3-2, taking exactly three minutes of overtime. Seattle wins for the first time in playoff overtime, the first home playoff win, and ties the series 2-2. The Kraken also earn a third home playoff game (Game 6). But first, game 5 in Denver on Wednesday.