Moments after his team’s first home game in two weeks had ended in yet more disappointment, Kraken goalie Chris Driedger epitomized the frustration of a reeling squad that again couldn’t find a way to prevail.
Driedger played well enough to win Saturday night for a second consecutive start, only to see his team, which mostly executed the “tight, two-way game” their coach had wanted to see, once again fail to register a timely goal when needed. Instead, their 3-1 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Kings at Climate Pledge Arena marked their ninth consecutive defeat and 12th in the past 13 to drop them to 10-23-4 in an expansion season going off the proverbial cliff.
“Something has to change,” Driedger said, in what’s become a common refrain from Kraken players these losing postgame sessions. “Whether it’s that we need a spark on our off-day. And maybe get together with the guys and talk about what we need to do. But something has to change here. It’s completely unacceptable to lose nine games in a row.”
The Kraken have scored only nine goals in their past five games. They’ve also scored two goals or fewer in 19 of their 37 games in a league where chances of winning with anything fewer than three goals is usually quite rare.
Phillip Danault slotted home a second-period rebound to give the Kings a two-goal margin after Adrian Kempe opened the scoring just over four minutes into the game. Marcus Johansson got the Kraken on the board midway through the middle frame by potting the rebound after a spectacular initial save off a Calle Jarnkrok deflection by Kings goalie Cal Petersen.
But the Kraken failed to add to their total after that power-play goal. Ryan Donato nearly tied it a few minutes later, but his one-timed slapshot rang off both the goalpost and crossbar.
Then, in a tightly played third period, the Kraken got a power-play chance with 3:45 to play in regulation time after Drew Doughty took a high-sticking penalty. But the Kraken failed to register a shot and Danault added his second of the night for Los Angeles on an empty net with goalie Driedger pulled for an extra attacker.
“We don’t really have an option,” Driedger said. “We have to go out there and find our way out of this. As frustrated as we are right now, we have another game in two days. We have to find a way to win a hockey game.”
The Kraken haven’t won in more than a month and have just a lone victory to show for the last 43 days.
Driedger kept things close after allowing the early goal. He looked particularly sharp in a second period in which the Kraken were outshot 13-6, then in the third when Doughty got a one-timed slapper off from the high slot only to have the puck deflect off the goalie’s pads.
Up to that point, the Kraken had allowed just one shot by the Kings over 15 minutes of third-period play. But they couldn’t get the equalizer.
Part of why wins have been so hard to come by has been a lack of offense. The Kraken haven’t been helped in that regard by a season-ending injury to Brandon Tanev, the long-term loss as well of Jaden Schwartz and a more recent arm injury to Morgan Geekie that again saw him sit out versus Los Angeles.
“We need to get the win and we didn’t,” said Johansson, the player most relied on in Schwartz’s absence to create opportunities in front of the net. “It’s getting frustrating. We’re working hard, but we’ve got to get that little extra and find ways to win.”
That said, the other half of Kraken coach Dave Hakstol’s “tight game” equation was to limit the goals against. The Kraken entered the night last in the league in that regard and the performance of goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and – to a lesser extent – Driedger has been less than desirable most of the season.
Driedger got the rare second consecutive start, coming off a strong performance in a tough 2-1 loss in St. Louis. Things didn’t start off well for him when he allowed a juicy rebound on an Alex Iafallo shot that Kempe easily tucked into the vacated right side of the net just 4:06 into the night.
It marked the 11th time this season the Kraken have been scored on in the opening five minutes. Those early goals typically add to the Kraken’s seemingly monumental task of actually winning since they typically spend the remaining game playing from behind.
To their credit, they tightened up considerably after Kempe’s goal, allowing just a few more shots the rest of the period. But they struggled to find the back of the net and found themselves down 2-0 early in the second when Danault fought off defenseman Jeremy Lauzon and slapped home a rebound from close range after a pair of nice stops by Driedger.
“They got to the inside at our net a little bit more than we did at their net,” Hakstol said. “It’s one of those games where it’s going to be a game that’s in the trenches.”
And the Kraken simply won fewer puck battles than they needed to at critical times, particularly on their final late power-play chance.
“You want to see the guys have success,” Hakstol said. “And obviously at the end of the day we need to win hockey games. Frustration isn’t a part of it for me. I see the areas where we can get a little bit more out of our group. We can give a little bit more. And until things turn and offense starts to come easier, we’re going to have to give a little bit more.”
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