Short-handed on defense for yet another game, the Kraken have had to look deep within their defensive depth.
On Tuesday, Adam Larsson did what he could.
The 29-year-old defenseman not only scored in the second period of a 4-2 loss against the Predators, but played back-to-back shifts of 2:04 and 2:07 on the penalty kill. In a game like Tuesday’s, short Carson Soucy for potentially weeks and Jamie Oleksiak out of his third consecutive contest, that’s the type of effort the Kraken are going to continue to require of their defensemen.
“He steps up in that role a couple nights ago too, we came in short-hand within an injury, I think ours ended up playing 26 minutes,” said Kraken coach Dave Hakstol. “Some of those are pretty heavy minutes so he’s got the ability to do that. He has the motor to be able to power through some of those, but it’s not ideal.”
Of course, that type of style can wear out players, especially in these competitive, tight contests that result in a loss. It was the fourth power play of the night that burnt the Kraken, a too-many-men penalty, in a growing trend of late penalties coming back to bite them. On Tuesday, they couldn’t force a comeback despite strong individual efforts like Larsson’s.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad homestand; the Kraken played their most structured, consistent stretch of games in recent memory.
In the finale of that six-game homestand the Kraken’s loss cemented a 3-3 record before a four-game road trip out east to lead into the All-Star break.
It was a homestand that included a win against the NHL’s top-point getting team, the Panthers, the first shootout win in franchise history, and a strong performance against the Sharks.
“We played pretty consistent hockey this homestand,” said Hakstol. “The San Jose game (Thursday), we didn’t love our performance to be honest. But it was one of those games where we didn’t play our best but we found a way to win and that’s important … I really liked the formula that we’ve had to the homestand here and the purpose that we’ve played … That’s going to be challenged, we’re playing good teams over this next stretch.”
Jared McCann struck with his 16th of the year to give the Kraken the first lead on Tuesday night, his first goal since Jan. 12 in Dallas. Nashville took a penalty right after granting the Kraken an initial power play, so Seattle had a 5-on-3, and McCann took advantage.
What followed was one of the stronger Kraken first periods in some time, but without the finish. Yanni Gourde had a breakaway stopped by Nashville’s All-Star goalie Juuse Saros, Jordan Eberle’s backhand attempt was also denied. Marcus Johansson and Eberle had a 2-on-1 near the end of the first where they couldn’t get a shot off.
The Predators made them pay moments later.
Luke Kunin beat Philipp Grubauer with 21 seconds left in the frame to tie the score and send both teams to the intermission knotted up.
Larsson put the Kraken back ahead 12:21 into the second when Gourde found him open sneaking down the slot. He put in his third goal of the season.
Filip Forsberg carried the puck from behind the opposing net all the way down to the Predators offensive zone and rifled it past Grubauer to tie the score at 2.
It took 1:16 for Nashville to establish its first lead of the game.
This one was tough luck; Mattias Ekholm attempted a wraparound that hit off Vince Dunn’s skate and into the net.
Their second too-many-men penalty of the homestand cost them in the third period, when Matt Duchene scored on the power play with 4:09 left to end a Kraken comeback bid.
Despite the too-many-men call coming for the second time, Hakstol didn’t feel like it was a concern to address going forward, simply something they knew had to be fixed.
“It’s bad timing to make that mistake,” said Hakstol. “Something like that in that time of the hockey game can’t happen. Absolutely just has to be cleaned up there There’s no discussion to be had on it.”
Seattle will go on the road for the next week starting with a game in Pittsburgh on Thursday, against a Penguins team that beat them 6-1 on Dec. 6. It might be a good benchmark for the progress they’ve made on the recent homestand and overall since Jan. 1.
Even with mistakes to continue to fix, the Kraken seem to feel like they’ve made genuine strides over the course of the past six games and can illustrate their improvement over this next segment out east.
Still likely without two of their top defenders coming up, something like Larsson’s 21:48 and 6:29 on the penalty kill could become familiar territory. They can make it easier on guys logging those tough minutes by limiting errors against, as Hakstol said, tough teams coming up.