If the Kraken played their home games at Ball Arena in Denver, they might have the best record in the league. Once again the visitors from Seattle were able to beat the Avalanche, a perennial western powerhouse and the 2022 Stanley Cup winner, this time with last minute heroics from Oliver Bjorkstrand.
His second goal of the night and sixth on the season came with 32-seconds remaining and gave the Kraken the win.
In their brief history, including the playoffs, the Kraken have now beaten the Avalanche six times in Denver.
Bjorkstrand had both goals and hit the post three times in the Kraken’s Round-1, Game-7 victory at Colorado last April.
In what was mostly an even period in terms of shots and physical play, the Avalanche had a 10-6 advantage in scoring chances, three of them ‘high danger’. Yet it was the Kraken jumping out to a 1-0 lead on Jaden Schwartz’s team-leading 7th goal of the season.
It came at 18:39 with assists to Tye Kartye and D-man Vince Dunn. Schwartz ripped a wrister home from the right wing circle through a partial screen to extend his career high point streak to eight games.
Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer made ten saves in the period while his counterpart Ivan Prosvetov made seven for the Avalanche.
The teams picked up the pace in terms of scoring in the second period. Bjorkstrand gave the Kraken a 2-0 lead at the 4:29 mark. Getting knocked down as he entered the zone seemed to help matters. Colorado assumed he was out of the play, but he got up, headed to the slot and buried a snap shot following a feed from Jamie Oleksiak.
Bjorkstrand may have the sneakiest, quickest release on the team.
The extended lead only lasted 28-seconds. Defenseman Bowen Byram wristed home a shot to put the Avalanche on the board at 4:57. Seattle center Alex Wennberg found himself out of position on a forecheck pinch along the left wing boards and with D-man Oleksiak up ice, the Avalanche converted a 2-on-1 rush compliments of Nathan MacKinnon.
The big news of the period: Matty Beniers snapped his goal scoring slump, picking up his first of the season with a power play goal. There was no denying him. He stepped into the left circle and unleashed a rocket wrister. The young center’s confidence started to reappear when he picked up two assists in Tuesday’s game in Arizona.
With 4:20 remaining in the period, the Kraken mysteriously lost track of MacKinnon in the D-zone. The superstar stepped out from behind the net and found himself all alone in front. Cale Makar found him with an easy pass from the right point and MacKinnon buried it short side on Grubauer.
The Kraken fell short with a chance to extend the lead with a power play opportunity at 3:39.
The game became feisty, with Byram and Dunn dropping the mitts at one point.
Along the way Colorado was able to tie things up on a deflection by Valeri Nichushkin at 12:15.
Staggered penalties led to an abbreviated power play opportunity in the final five minutes for the Avalanche. Grubauer made a huge save to rob big center Ryan Johansen pointblank and the Kraken ended up killing the opportunity.
That set up Bjorkstrand’s heroics in the final minute, cashing in on a rebound on an initial shot by Eeli Tolvanen.
Shots on goal ended up 26-24 in favor of the Avalanche. Power plays: Seattle 1-for-4, Colorado 0-for-3
— The Avalanche lost forward Artturi Lehkonen in the game. The 28-year-old Finnish forward raced for a puck and was bumped into the corner boards by the Kraken’s “Big Rig” Oleksiak early in the second period. The top-six forward for the Av’s went to a local hospital and was cleared in terms of any nerve damage or symptoms of paralysis.
— With recent injuries piling up on the Kraken, they didn’t need to see defenseman Justin Schultz leave the game in the 3rd period, but that’s exactly what happened early on. Fortunately he returned after missing two or three shifts. We’ll see if there’s any lingering effects from a hit he took in the corner.
Kraken 3 Stars:
1) Oliver Bjorkstrand – Two goals, including the game winner in the final minute.
2) Vince Dunn – A regular on these star lists last season, Dunn had two assists plus a fight that was only ruled ‘roughing’.
3) Jamie Oleksiak – The Big Rig was a physical force, four hits and an assist in more than 22-minutes.