ST. LOUIS — For the Kraken this season, it feels like if it’s not one thing it’s another.
They got strong goaltending and penalty killing against a prolific Blues power play but only generated a single goal in a 2-1 loss. They finished their three-game road trip 0-3-0, and have lost their last eight contests, and 10 of their last 11.
“It’s not the way we want it to be,” said Alexander Wennberg, who scored the lone Kraken goal. “We’re finding ways to lose the game. … In the third period we (have been giving) away some goals. We have to find something here. We have to step up and have some responsibility.”
The Kraken penalty kill stopped the first four Blues power plays in one of the better special-teams performances of the season. The miscues built up, though, and cost the Kraken with a go-ahead power play goal 5:30 into the third period from Pavel Buchnevich after Max McCormick took a penalty in the offensive zone.
“I don’t think it’s one mistake,” said Kraken coach Dave Hakstol. “Throughout a hockey game there’s ups and downs and mistakes that happen throughout the hockey game. … Our specialty teams on the PK did a real good job. The fifth minor penalty is a turning point in the hockey game and we weren’t able to get that kill. I’m not going to put the whole hockey game on just that one play, but to make that play 200 feet from our net cannot happen.”
Chris Driedger, in his first start in goal since Dec. 30 and eighth overall, made 25 saves and kept the Kraken ahead for the majority of the contest. He made 12 saves in the second period to preserve the lead before it dissipated early in the third.
“Just frustrated,” he said. “You never really feel happy after a good game (and loss). It’s a team effort and nobody is satisfied without two points. We have got to figure out a way to win. We’re going into third periods up and giving them away. … It’s these key moments that keep slipping away from us.”
After playing the night before in Dallas, the Kraken came out with plenty of jump and a significantly stronger opening frame than against the Stars. It was an inverse of the Dallas game where they were sluggish to start and built better second and third periods.
Wennberg snagged his fourth goal of the season off a Ryan Donato rebound, his first goal in 12 contests. It was the first time the Kraken struck first in a road game since Dec. 14, their last road victory.
St. Louis pressured in the second, and the Kraken were forced to kill back-to-back Vince Dunn minor penalties just under midway through. They killed another one later, Mark Giordano’s second infraction of the night. The Blues entered Thursday night with the second-best power play in the league at 30.1%.
The Kraken entered the night at a 77.5% clip killing penalties, which was the 24th ranked unit in the NHL. Over the course of the road trip, against three of the better power play teams in the league, they only allowed two power play tallies, and it was a 5-on-3 strike in Dallas before the late Blues goal on Thursday.
“We killed those minor penalties, especially in the second period. That takes an awful lot of energy, especially on a back to back,” said Hakstol. “That’s energy that’s tough to get back.”
The Kraken couldn’t generate on a power play that spanned the end of the second and into the third, but it was the Blues’ even strength unit that knotted the game up.
A turnover trying to clear the defensive end was picked up in the neutral zone by Blues defender Torey Krug, and the Blues had a clean zone entry before Robert Thomas made it 1-1 just 1:29 into the third frame.
On the fifth power play moments later, the Kraken were burned.
Buchnevich scored from between the circles just 12 seconds into McCormick’s holding penalty early in the third. The Kraken got a power play with 2:15 left in the game and didn’t do anything with it.
“I thought we played well, but got in penalty trouble,” said Driedger. “We’ve got to stay out of the box, and giving a team with a power play like that that many chances, they’re gonna get one.”
The Kraken barely possessed the puck the rest of the period and notably struggled to generate any offensive momentum, especially from zone entries.
They’ll have the next seven games at home before a lengthy east-coast trip into the All-Star break, but they also haven’t won at home since Dec. 4.
“Nobody wants to play hockey and lose the game,” said Wennberg. “Right now we’re not doing a good job. There’s no secret to it, you have to do the right things on the ice. We’re finding ways to lose. We have to do something else. …
“Next game up, we have an opportunity, we have to be better.”