LOS ANGELES — There was a feeling among Kraken players following Saturday night’s opening game here that strong work by Yanni Gourde and his new linemates had started swinging momentum their way before the team simply ran out of time.
As if to prove that theory accurate in Monday night’s rematch, Alex Wennberg and Ryan Donato wasted little time combining efforts on the game’s opening goal a team-record 14 seconds after the puck was first dropped. Wennberg’s backhanding home of a rebound off Donato’s wraparound attempt set the tone for a resounding 6-1 victory in which the Kraken took the early initiative and then Gourde’s new line took over.
Adam Larsson also scored in the opening frame after strong forechecking work and possession by Gourde and linemates Victor Rask and Karson Kuhlman gave the Kraken the lead for good. Rask then added some huge insurance later in that second period with his first goal for his new team since last week’s trade from Minnesota.
“That’s what we call a team win,” Gourde said. “I think everybody contributed.”
The trio’s play throughout this contest helped the Kraken enjoy more than double the offensive-zone possession time the first two periods compared to what the Kings had, which proved enough to secure a two-goal lead that held up the rest of the way. Jordan Eberle and Jared McCann then padded the lead 29 seconds apart in the final period and Daniel Sprong added his third goal in three games for the Kraken to win easily.
Chris Driedger stopped 36 of 37 shots for the victory in his first game action in 18 days since an overtime loss in Ottawa.
Driedger made several key stops with the game still close, including one point-blank on Trevor Moore with eight minutes to go in the middle frame and the Kraken ahead by a goal. He also made a blocker save on Jacob Moverare — part of a flurry of Kings chances in the closing seconds of that period — that had the defenseman slamming his stick on the ice in frustration.
“I didn’t really see a whole lot in the first 35 minutes and then all of a sudden ‘bang-bang-bang,'” Driedger said. “So, I felt pretty good. I felt patient. I just felt like I was in a good position for the point shots. I got a couple of good sticks on those. … I felt myself, felt patient. It was just good to get the win.”
Driedger said it was his first start in which he didn’t do any pregame skating. “So, it doesn’t look like I’ll be doing much pregame skating after this,” he quipped.
The victory enabled the Kraken to finish this mini-road-trip with a winning record after taking last Tuesday’s game in Arizona and then splitting the two contests here. It was just the second time they’ve managed a winning trip all season since going 2-1-1 in a late-November, early-December swing through Tampa Bay, Florida, Buffalo and Detroit.
Unlike the loss two nights prior, the Kraken took the game to their opponent rather than the other way around. It began with Donato’s work on the opening goal, lugging the puck around the net and then emerging out front for the wraparound opportunity that was initially stopped but bounced to the slot for Wennberg’s backhanded chip into the net.
Los Angeles tied the game just five minutes later on a power-play goal by Arthur Kaliev. But the Kraken regained the lead three minutes after that thanks to Gourde’s new line gaining and maintaining control in the Kings’ end.
Saturday’s game had seen the Kings shut down the Kraken in the early stages, deploying their 1-3-1 formation meant to limit offensive creativity in the neutral zone. One counter to that is avoiding time in the neutral zone and using strong forechecking to hold the puck for longer periods in the attacking end.
“We made a few adjustments that we wanted to, like coming through the neutral zone with more speed,” Gourde said. “And also, getting up quickly. We didn’t let them set up in their structure as much tonight. Last game I felt they were in their structure where they wanted us.”
Gourde’s line began doing that midway through Saturday’s game and continued much the same this time around. It would be Gourde’s forechecking leading to his team gaining control in the Los Angeles end before the puck finally came back to defenseman Larsson at the right point.
Larsson then snapped a shot through traffic that somehow eluded everybody before winding up behind Kings goalie Cal Petersen to put the visitors up 2-1.
Gourde’s line kept up its hard work in the middle period, with the Kraken holding their lead and continuing to limit opposition chances. It would be Gourde fighting for a puck in the Kings’ end and then sliding a pass over to Rask, who hesitated and then fired a pinpoint wrist shot in behind Petersen for a 3-1 lead.
Kuhlman and Gourde had importantly gone for the net just ahead of the shot in which Rask picked the corner.
“It’s a key to this game,” Gourde said. “If you want to score more goals, you’ve got to go to the paint. You’ve got to be determined to go there and create chances.”
The Kraken put things away in the third, with Eberle grabbing a puck and racing in alone before snapping one by Petersen. The dust from that goal had barely settled before Morgan Geekie led a 2-on-1 rush and slipped the puck over to McCann for his team-leading 24th goal of the season.
Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said he “really liked our team game from start to finish” after the quick outburst followed by the late scoring flurry.
“We’ve gotten off to some good starts, but we didn’t the other night,” Hakstol said. “This time of year, it’s hard to play from behind. It’s tough to play from behind and dig out of a hole. So, we earned that lead tonight.”