If the Seattle Kraken had begun to feel better about themselves over the last month, the Calgary Flames handed them a bitter dose of reality Saturday night.
A Seattle team that had won six of its past 11 was dominated throughout the final two periods in falling to the Flames, the leaders of the Pacific Division and playing in a manner recently that stamps them as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, 4-1 at Climate Pledge Arena.
The game was tied 1-1 before the Flames scored with 16.5 seconds left in the first period on a goal by Trevor Lewis.
The game never felt close again as Calgary goaltender Jacob Markstrom fended off five power plays — all in the final two periods — to keep the Kraken scoreless in the final 55 minutes.
“Their goaltender made the difference in the second half of that hockey game,’’ said Kraken coach Dave Hakstol, whose team fell to 23-43-6.
The Flames improved to 44-19-9 with Saturday’s win marking the fourth straight in a four-game road trip, Calgary having earlier in the week defeated the L.A. Kings, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks, holding each team to two goals or fewer while each time scoring three goals or more.
Hakstol evinced some enthusiasm about his team heading into the game, saying beforehand that the team’s recent 6-5 stretch “says we’ve played hard. We’ve played good, sound hockey.’’
That included a 2-0 win at Chicago on Thursday night, the second shutout in Kraken history.
And despite having had little rest, on what was the team’s first Pride Night, the Kraken came out with energy, playing evenly with the Flames early on.
Still, just 3:55 into the game the Flames took the lead on a goal from Blake Coleman.
If anyone worried that the rout was on, the Kraken quickly said otherwise as Karson Kuhlman fired a slap shot from just inside the right faceoff circle exactly five minutes into the first period to tie it at 1-1. It was Kuhlman’s third goal of the season.
But just when the Kraken thought they might get out of the first period with a tie, Calgary’s Trevor Lewis decided otherwise. Lewis’ redirect of a pass in front of the net from Noah Hanfin made it 2-1 with just 16.5 seconds to play in the first period.
“That’s a tough goal to give up,’’ said Hakstol, who said he didn’t put the blame solely on starting goalie Philipp Grubauer, saying the goal was “a team issue’’ and that Grubauer “played a solid game.’’
Still, heading into the second period down 2-1 instead of tied “slapped us a little bit,’’ Hakstol said. “It took us a little while to get going in that second period.’’
The Flames began to truly take control in the second period, grabbing a 3-1 lead on a goal by Michael Stone on a power play 8:39 in. The Kraken had gone a man down for the first time in the game thanks to a tripping penalty on Carson Soucy.
The Kraken had a chance to get back in it when Stone was called for a minor for holding at the 12:42 mark of the second period. The Kraken went 1:06 without scoring. But Calgary’s Tyler Toffoli was then called for tripping and Seattle had a 5-on-3 for 54 seconds.
But the Flames killed both penalties due in part to some steady netminding by Markstrom.
Then, just a little while later, with 3:22 to go in the period, the Flames were called for yet another penalty, holding on Rasmus Andersson, giving the Kraken yet another chance.
But yet again, the Kraken were foiled, going without a goal and entering the final period down 3-1.
“We had good looks at the end of the second period on those power plays,’’ Hakstol said. “We had three real good looks. He made saves in traffic. … He was the difference in those situations.’’
Said Soucy: “At times you’ve got to tip your hat to a good goaltender. … We had a couple really good chances, a couple that just glanced off (his) shoulder.’’
The result seemed a given from there.
The Kraken had chances throughout the third period, including in the late going when the Flames were penalized for too many men on the ice.
But the Kraken also had to kill two power plays for penalties of their own — on Will Borden for tripping and Soucy for hooking — and neither team scored in the third period until the final minutes.
Seattle pulled Grubauer, who got the start less than 48 hours after pitching his second shutout of the year, with just over three minutes left.
Tiffoli added an empty-net goal shortly with 1:07 left to make it 4-1.
The game marked a tough turnaround for the Kraken, who played on Wednesday in St. Louis and Thursday in Chicago. That meant the team did not hold its usual morning skate.
But Hakstol said before the game he would not consider that a suitable excuse.
“Well, that’s the schedule,’’ Hakstol said. “What I would say is a good pro is able to show up and compete hard in an imperfect situation because there are a lot of imperfect situations.’’
The Kraken showed again Saturday that they remain a most imperfect situation themselves.