CALGARY, Alberta — Any concern about the Kraken lacking energy or effort in this third preseason affair all but evaporated a tick beyond the six-minute mark.

That’s when Jaden Schwartz poked home a rebound minutes after Mark Giordano had opened the scoring in his return to a place where he’d played 15 seasons for the hometown Flames. The two early goals dispelled any notion the Kraken would get steamrolled a second straight night in Alberta and Wednesday night’s eventual 4-3 shootout win saw the pace of play sustained throughout.

And the top-line trio comprising wingers Schwartz and Jordan Eberle and centered by Jared McCann played a key role, leaving the Kraken’s braintrust with a decision to make. Do they bother experimenting with center Alex Wennberg when he returns this week from time off for his wife giving birth, or leave the trio intact in hopes of building additional chemistry?

“They’re both really good, smart players with good hockey IQs,” Schwartz said of his linemates, who had first played together Sunday in Spokane against the Vancouver Canucks. “We’re just finding out what we each like to do and where we like to be.”

That much was evident on one of the night’s key plays as Eberle stole the puck from Michael Stone behind Calgary’s net and dished it out to Schwartz who slammed it behind goalie Dan Vladar with only 7:23 to play in regulation. That looked like the game-winner until Mikael Backlund fired a wrist shot past Joey Daccord from the right faceoff circle with 2:27 to play to tie things 3-3 and send the game to overtime.

After a scoreless five minutes of sudden death, Daccord — who replaced goalie Philipp Grubauer after two periods as pre-planned — came up big in the shootout. He stopped Johnny Gaudreau and Justin Kirkland to keep the session tied 1-1 after goals by McCann and Matthew Tkachuk.


Eberle then put a nice deke on Vladar to win it for the Kraken.

It helped that the Kraken put out a significantly stronger lineup for this game than in a 6-0 rout at the hands of the Edmonton Oilers the night before. And a lot of it started with the Schwartz-McCann-Eberle line.

They set the tone from the outset at the Saddledome, quieting the crowd when Schwartz played the puck into the Flames zone for McCann, who found Giordano with a pass as he closed in fast on the net. Giordano switched to his backhand and tucked the puck between Vladar’s pads to open the scoring at the three-minute mark. 

Eberle makes his offseason home in Calgary and was particularly pleased to see Giordano score in his return.

The crowd seemed torn over whether to cheer or stay silent over the former Flames’ captain’s goal. An immediate buzz went up, followed by sporadic chants of “Gio! Gio!’’ as the Kraken celebrated its first goal since Sunday’s third period in Spokane against the Vancouver Canucks.

And just three minutes later, it would be Eberle getting the puck back to defenseman Adam Larsson, whose blast from the point was stopped. But the rebound left by Vladar was easily slotted home by Schwartz for a 2-0 lead.


“Jaden I’ve known since we were young — I’ve known his game for a long time,” Eberle said of Schwartz. “And McCann has fit well in the middle. We just want to try and gain as much chemistry as we can and obviously as you play more exhibition games … you want to build on that.”

The Flames overcame the initial 2-0 deficit with goals by Tkachuk late in the first period and another by Stone midway through the second.

But the energy level missing through much of the Edmonton game was there when the Kraken needed it in the third. Especially when Eberle stole the puck from Stone.

“I’m a big believer in loose pucks and getting your stick on pucks,” Eberle said. “That’s a tough thing to do. There are a lot of good players in the league that do it. It’s stuff you’ve got to practice. But you never want to try and give up on a puck. You never know.”

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol was impressed by the play and the effort turned in by his team over three periods.

Hakstol admitted he has some evaluations to do ahead of a pair of games Friday and Saturday in Everett and Kent. After that, the Kraken has one remaining preseason game Tuesday in Vancouver against the Canucks.


In other words, the time for experimenting with line combinations is running out. Wennberg, once envisioned as a potential top-line center in Yanni Gourde’s absence, has yet to play this preseason.

“It’ll give us some options,” Hakstol said of the Schwartz-McCann-Eberle line. “That line, they’re continuing to make progress and build chemistry. But also having Alex (Wennberg) back gives us some options.”

Hakstol may look at teaming Wennberg with other options on Friday.

“That’s going to be a topic we’ll go through, evaluate tomorrow,” he said. “It’s getting pretty short. We’re halfway through the exhibition season now and that doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for experimentation. So, we’ll pick our spots.”