LAS VEGAS — Going into their inaugural season, the Kraken were projected to have strong defense and goaltending, perhaps to make up for what many believed to be a lackluster offense.
The past couple of games have been anything but. The Kraken went 0-2-0 in their brief two-game road trip south, returning home for a six-game homestand on the heels of a loss to a previously winless club and a 4-2 loss in Vegas on Tuesday night. It was the eighth game out of 13 where the Kraken allowed four goals or more.
Jordan Eberle scored a hat trick on Thursday night against the Sabres, snapping a two-game losing streak. He scored the first goal on Tuesday night as well, and has been the primary source of offense the past few weeks.
His frustration following the game was evident, not in just the results, but overall execution.
“We’re finding ways to lose instead of ways to win,” he said. “In the game against Buffalo, you could see it, we weren’t going to lose. It’s on everybody, it’s on myself, a lot of the guys. We have to find ways to win games.”
The goals against have started to come in bunches. Against the Arizona Coyotes, the Kraken allowed five goals to the lowest-scoring team in the league. On Tuesday night, Seattle allowed three goals in 1:16 between the end of the second and start of the third period, and took two bad penalties after staying out of the box prior.
Following the Kraken’s brutal loss in Arizona to begin the road trip, head coach Dave Hakstol talked about lapses. They re-appeared in Vegas, with the Kraken allowing goals in the final seconds of the first two frames.
The first lapse tied the score for the Knights heading into the intermission. The second time, it looked like the Kraken gave them a taste of their own medicine with a Yanni Gourde tally with 30 seconds left in the frame.
In shades of the end of the Arizona game, the Knights went down the ice and tied it 15 seconds later, going into the break knotted up once more.
That might have been concerning enough, if the Kraken didn’t also allow a Shea Theodore tally to give the Golden Knights their first lead of the game 30 seconds into the third, and then a power-play goal moments later after an ill-timed Adam Larsson holding call.
Before all that, the Kraken did at least get to release a sigh of relief on the man advantage.
The Kraken never seemed too worried about their listless power play. Perhaps they were right. After all, they had been getting some looks, and against Buffalo a week ago, Morgan Geekie’s tally moments after the man advantage expired may as well have been one, the team repeated a few times.
It had to have felt better to actually succeed in the allotted two-minute power-play frame, though, in the first period; if for nothing else, but to put the questions about what had been the worst unit in the league to rest, at least for a little while.
Marcus Johansson, who hadn’t played since the opening game in Vegas nearly a month ago, made his presence felt right off the bat. He helped create space on the power play, and his netfront presence gave room for Eberle.
Eberle tallied his fifth goal in three games and seventh in seven, nabbing the first Kraken power-play goal in the last 23 attempts, and just their fourth all season in 39. It was also the first power-play goal the Golden Knights allowed on home ice all season.
Before the last three games, the Kraken had struggled to open games with a lead. They broke that stretch against Buffalo last week, and then in Arizona, even in defeat, had one of their best openings of the season. It felt similar at the end of the first period in Vegas.
Seattle held its lead until 25.8 seconds left in the first, when Alex Pietrangelo caught Chris Driedger off guard with a shot underneath the crossbar, sending the Kraken to the locker room with a bitter taste after a mostly complete period.
“It’s the little things,” said Kraken captain Mark Giordano. “I think it’s little breakdowns… You have to have the right mindset. But you have to know the other teams are gonna push and they did push, and they made us pay.”
The end of the second repeated the first, but not before the Kraken had a moment of hope. Seattle held a 2-1 lead from Gourde — who blocked a shot and missed the majority of the third period — for 15 seconds before Evgenii Dadonov tied it, and then the Vegas floodgates opened.
“We needed to go into the second intermission up one,” said Hakstol. “That was a goal we can’t give up.”
Theodore scored his and then Reilly Smith on the power play, and the Kraken went from a lead to down by two in a hurry. Seattle pulled Driedger with over three minutes left and had a late power play from a Vegas delay of game, but couldn’t generate a comeback.
The Kraken have six games at home, but the strength of schedules gets considerably tougher soon, and the Kraken have found themselves in last place and just four wins.
“We’re losing ground,” said Eberle. “You obviously can’t win the Stanley Cup in the first couple months of the season, but you can definitely fall out. We obviously need to deliver and we have a long homestand so we need to start putting wins together.”