Since the first Kraken win two weeks ago, it has struggled to expand leads in the third period.
The Kraken solved that on Tuesday night in a 5-1 win over the Canadiens. Against the iron of the league on Thursday, the Minnesota Wild, Seattle survived another third period to pull out a 4-1 win.
The effort was powered by an unlikely source but a growing threat.
Haydn Fleury’s offensive game seemed to elevate on Tuesday night against the Canadiens when he posted four shots on goal, and offense coming from the blue line has quickly become a defining characteristic for the Kraken.
“I got a lucky bounce on the first one and the second one I kind of just took what they gave me,” said Fleury. “I think I’ve been shooting a lot the last couple of games.”
On Thursday, it was a wild result for Fleury against the Wild, securing his first career two-goal game. Those two goals powered the Kraken, which saw another concerning third period nearly cost them.
Thursday’s third period differed from the others where the Kraken didn’t extend a one-goal advantage. In Nashville, the Kraken got just a single shot and eked out a win. In Columbus, the Kraken lost the one-goal lead in overtime with a jittery defensive effort. In the opener against Vancouver, a couple of mistakes and a couple of bounces was all it took to surrender the lead for a regulation loss.
This time, the Kraken stayed aggressive, outshooting the Wild 37-29 and earning its highest overall shot total of the season.
Minnesota entered as the highest-quantity shooting team in the league, averaging a league-high 36.3 shots per game.
“They’re going to get their chances,” said Kraken forward Yanni Gourde. “We were able to manage them. Stayed in the middle of the ice, kept them on the outside for the most part.”
The Kraken saw that early; the Wild already had eight shots on goal less than seven minutes into the first period. By the end of the frame, though, the Kraken had outpaced the Wild.
“The first 10 minutes, we didn’t get near the blue paint,” said Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol. “After that, we did a good job, including the first goal, that ignites us, and that’s getting inside and into the net.”
Before the Kraken caught up to the Wild’s pace, it found itself playing from behind again.
Minnesota’s Ryan Hartman was open between the circles without much resistance, and took a backhand pass from Kirill Kaprizov behind the net and beat Philipp Grubauer to go ahead 1-0. Just over 10 seconds later, the Kraken found itself in familiar territory; this time, with a better result.
Hartman would have notched his second tally of the game, but the officials determined he kicked the puck in the net. In the first game of the season in Vegas, the Kraken didn’t have as fortunate a call.
Avoiding what could have been a disastrous start, the Kraken took advantage of its new life.
In Tuesday’s game against Montreal, Kraken defenseman Jamie Oleksiak crashed the net, something blue liners don’t often do. It paid off on Brandon Tanev’s goal; in a similar play against the Wild, Oleksiak went toward the net, but Jaden Schwartz’s pass missed the mark and bounced off the boards.
It just so happened to find Fleury with room above the high slot, and he didn’t hesitate, firing it in on Wild goalie Cam Talbot, tying the score 1-1 13:23 into the opening period.
Minnesota opened with a quick pace and until the kicked goal was called back, it seemed like the Kraken couldn’t gain possession. Seattle attempted to match that pace later, and ended up controlling the puck for the majority of the second half of the opening frame, and into the second period.
“We did a good job in the second period,” said Hakstol. “We weren’t able to extend the lead, but overall in the second period, that’s a good 20 minutes of hockey for us based off a lot of hard work for our guys.”
Joonas Donskoi took a high stick that drew blood with five seconds left in the first period to give the Kraken a four-minute power play.
Seattle didn’t score on that power play, but the four minutes allowed the Kraken to set an offensive pace with four shots on Talbot. The Kraken outshot the Wild 10-3 midway through the second, and at some point, the quantity paid off.
With 7:33 elapsed in the second, Fleury had an opening to shoot right above the left circle. Instead, he skated around the net and had a wraparound go through, giving Seattle its first lead of the game.
Grubauer made a key stop in the closing moments of the second, stopping Kaprizov, who stripped Yanni Gourde of the puck at the Minnesota offensive blue line to preserve the one-goal lead going into the third.
“Terrible turnover by me,” said Gourde. “That was unacceptable, and at the end of the period. Grubi came up huge and makes the save and keeps us one ahead. And from that moment on, we kept pushing and had a solid end.”
Brandon Tanev put all anxieties to rest with a minute left in the third period with an empty-net goal to put the Kraken ahead 3-1, then Mark Giordano added empty-net goal another to end it.
The Kraken head into the final game of its homestand on Sunday against the Rangers looking to go 3-1 in its opening week at Climate Pledge Arena.