VANCOUVER, B.C. — There’s still hope this Pacific Northwest showdown between the Kraken and Vancouver Canucks will eventually blossom into one of the league’s bigger rivalries.
But before that can happen, the Kraken will actually need to beat their cross-border opponent, something that won’t happen this season after a 5-2 loss to the Canucks on Tuesday night at Rogers Arena. This fourth installment of what’s been a one-sided beatdown thus far saw the Canucks score twice on their first four shots before the game was four minutes old, then add a third goal to dig a first intermission hole the Kraken couldn’t climb out of.
“It was very uncharacteristic of us,” Kraken forward Jared McCann said of the slow start in which his team was being outshot 12-1 by the time the third goal went in. “Obviously, they’re a good team and we’ve been plying pretty well as of late. We’re just going to try to move past this one.”
And move past the start to a rivalry that’s been less Sharks vs. Jets and more Sharks vs. Baby Seals. In winning all four games between them, the Canucks outscored the Kraken 19-8.
McCann and his teammates managed to make a game of this one in the second period, courtesy of a pair of 5-on-3 power-play advantages only minutes apart. Kraken coach Dave Hakstol went with a five-forward power play unit and told his team to press for as many scoring chances as possible.
They certainly did that, finally scoring on the second of the two-man advantages just as one of the penalties was expiring. McCann started off a nice three-way passing play that saw Matty Beniers feed the puck to Jordan Eberle for a one-timer past goalie Spencer Martin to get the Kraken on the board at 4:49 of the middle frame.
Then, before the period was half done, Morgan Geekie went top shelf on Martin to narrow the lead to just a goal. The Canucks had learned right at the period’s outset that they’d been eliminated from playoff contention courtesy of a Dallas shootout win over Vegas and their focus seemed to drop off accordingly.
They took a slew of minor penalties — five in a row and seven of eight at one point — after their third goal and allowed the Kraken to regain momentum. From the time of the third Vancouver goal to Geekie scoring, the Kraken outshot the Canucks 19-1 overall and 16-2 in the middle period.
But they couldn’t get any more past Martin, who stopped 30 of 32 shots in the game. McCann had a team-high six of those shots, five of them on the power play.
“Obviously, he made some good saves,” McCann said of Martin, a recent AHL callup on an emergency basis with regular netminders Jaroslav Halak and Thatcher Demko both injured. “He’s a good goalie. I just tried to get the puck through as much as possible. Sometimes it goes in and sometimes it doesn’t.”
The Canucks restored the multi-goal lead late in the third period when Kraken goalie Joey Daccord misplayed a Matthew Highmore shot and had the puck bounce behind him where Luke Schenn slammed it home with 6:50 to go. Then, Quinn Hughes finished things on a 3-on-1 rush minutes later to close out the scoring.
The Kraken had started their own AHL netminder in Daccord as a reward of sorts for his strong season with their Charlotte, North Carolina affiliate — which has a playoff round bye. The idea was also to give Daccord some playing time ahead of his upcoming playoffs and he sure got some work early as the Canucks came at the Kraken in waves.
A Carson Soucy turnover in the neutral zone led to a 3-on-1 break that Sheldon Dries finished with a short side wrist shot. Less than a minute later, J.T. Miller took a drop pass in the high slot and buried a slap shot behind Daccord.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson then rifled home a slap shot through traffic on the power play to make it a 3-0 game.
But after the rocky start, Daccord held firm from there and gave the Kraken a chance to get back in it.
“I thought the team in the second period really came out ready to go,” Daccord said. “We got a lot of power plays but we earned those power plays, you know what I mean?”
Hakstol was pleased his squad shook off the uncharacteristic “sleepy start” to their game.
“After the start that we had, sometimes you wonder if we can get going — get the legs going — but we did,” he said. “And by far, we had enough chances to get back even.”
Hakstol had been asked before the game about what it will take to get this rivalry going a bit more intensely.
“Rivalries start in the playoffs,” he said. “That’s really the bottom line. I mean, they can start over the regular season but we’re so new into it. Ultimately, over time when you get into some heated battles in the regular season leading into playoff time. That’s ultimately what decides rivalries.”
That’s got a lot of truth to it. But to get to the playoffs, the Kraken first must win more regular season games — especially in their own division. And some in the Pacific Northwest would be a good place to start.