Defenseman Vince Dunn admits “it’s an interesting dynamic out there” during three-on-three overtime play, one that historically has not been kind to the Kraken.

In fact, the franchise has just one overtime victory — in January at Pittsburgh — in 13 chances at three-on-three, albeit with three additional victories via ensuing shootouts. The latest setback came Sunday against the Winnipeg Jets, when the Kraken turned over the puck on the first overtime shift and saw the winning goal scored on a two-on-one break.

“You’re kind of making a lot of spur-of-the moment reads,” Dunn said following Wednesday’s practice before his 8-5-3 team’s Thursday night home game against the New York Rangers. “It’s somewhere where we need to get better, including myself. I think there are ways we can deny these goals [against], even when stuff doesn’t go our way on all of the plays.”

The Kraken are winless in three games settled by three-on-three overtime this season and 1-8 all-time in such affairs compared with 3-1 in shootout rounds. They devoted parts of practice Tuesday and Wednesday to three-on-three play, knowing they can’t keep giving away points if they hope to compete for a playoff spot. 

Hockey games are typically played as five-on-five affairs — not including the goalies — but the NHL switched to a three-on-three overtime format before the 2015-16 season to create more open ice and generate goals. A shootout is used only if games remain tied after the five-minute overtime, with the eventual winning team gaining two points and the loser a lone point.

Odd-man rushes are a frequent feature of the overtime sessions, especially as players tire from long shifts on the less-cluttered ice surface and become prone to turning over the puck. Dunn tends to get plenty of three-on-three ice time given his strong offensive tendencies in a situation where teams commonly deploy two forwards and just one defenseman in anticipation of a fast-paced affair. 


But that also leaves teams vulnerable if they turn over the puck. Dunn knows he won’t have regular defensive partner Adam Larsson out there with him as a backstop if he gets caught up ice being too offensive-minded. 

“All I’m worried about is not turning it over myself,” Dunn said. “I mean, I trust the forwards to make the right decisions and use their instincts.”

But the forwards also need to have defense on their minds in three-on-three play. Kraken winger Andre Burakovsky, his line tiring from what became a 54-second shift in Sunday’s overtime, did a nice job of gaining the Winnipeg zone but then, instead of passing or buying time for fresh players to jump on, he attempted to deke his way past a Jets defender.

Mark Scheifele stole the puck off Burakovsky’s stick from behind and immediately passed it to Josh Morrissey to begin a two-on-one break the other way, with Dunn the only Kraken player back defending.

Dunn made an ill-fated choice to focus on puck-carrier Morrissey — which goalie Martin Jones was already doing — leaving Scheifele wide open to take an ensuing pass and deposit the puck into an empty right side of the net. Though Burakovsky and centerman Alex Wennberg had scrambled to reverse course from offense to defense, they didn’t catch up.

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said some commonalities in two of this season’s three overtime losses include turnovers and tired players staying out on the ice too long. Hakstol said he ordered up the extra work this week — including a full-fledged three-on-three scrimmage Tuesday at the end of practice — because “obviously, we’re not quite there yet.”


“Just like with the rest of our game, we have to make progress there,” Hakstol said. “Those points are extremely important. We all know that as the league continues to tighten up, the potential for more of those overtime games and overtime points is going to be there.”

Hakstol spent part of Wednesday’s morning meeting going over three-on-three “concepts” and worked on them in on-ice drills. He admitted it’s difficult for a team of 20 skaters to effectively practice for a three-on-three situation many of them will never be asked to play in during a game. 

But the Kraken worked conceptually on their transition game and regrouping off turnovers. Hakstol also worked with them on identifying what’s going on in the offensive zone and planning accordingly. 

“If it doesn’t look good, where are we taking the play from there?” Hakstol said. “So … the chemistry and thought process takes some time to grow.”

Kraken winger Oliver Bjorkstrand, also deployed in overtimes this season, said it’s often a balancing act between forwards being too aggressive and cautious to a fault. After all, the point is to try to score and win the game in overtime rather than leaving things to chance in a more random shootout. 

“You have to be careful about turning the puck over,” he said. “But at the same time, you have more ice time to try and create things.”

Bjorkstrand finds it “fun” to be out there with that much room. And he tries to be smart without holding back too much compared with how he’d play in five-on-five situations.

“If you want to create something, sometimes you have to take somewhat of a risk,” he said. “But it’s just being able to read the play. And knowing when to take that chance.”