DALLAS — A brief road trip that began with so much promise for the Kraken proved to be one they just couldn’t finish.
For the second time in two nights, the Kraken ran up a two-goal lead in the first period courtesy of Riley Sheahan and Yanni Gourde only to see things crumble from there. This time, it was a three-goal second period against them that begat a 3-2 loss Saturday to the Dallas Stars on a night the Kraken left goalie Chris Driedger to fend mostly for himself for a significant swath of the middle frame.
“It was a little déjà vu from last night,” Driedger said afterward. “We’ve got to obviously clean things up in the second there.”
The Stars’ top line of Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski did the big damage erasing the Kraken lead.
Much like the script in Friday’s defeat against the Minnesota Wild, where they allowed five goals in the second period, the Kraken this time yielded a pair of Stars’ tying tallies by Hintz before the middle session was nine minutes old. Then, Ryan Donato tried to blindly dump a backward pass behind his own net, only to have Denis Gurianov intercept it and feed Vladislav Namestnikov all alone in the slot for an easy goal to give Dallas the lead for good.
“When the third one went in, we did a good job of locking things down and giving ourselves a chance,” Driedger said. “But obviously, it wasn’t enough.”
The Kraken, as mentioned, eventually righted themselves and pressed for the equalizer, with Victor Rask just missing in close on a backhand with 8:48 to go. The Kraken kept coming in the final minute with Driedger pulled for an extra attacker but Stars goalie Jake Oettinger held firm and delivered a key win for a Dallas team that entered the night just two points up on Vegas for the final Western Conference wild-card spot.
The Stars had lost three in a row and took more than 24 hours to arrive back from a Thursday night defeat in Calgary after weather, mechanical issues and a plane swap saw them land in Texas only about 3:20 a.m. on Saturday. But they nonetheless picked up two critical points in this contest and all but finished off the Golden Knights — who have just three games remaining.
Driedger mentioned some of the positives of late for a Kraken team that now expects to come in and win games in buildings such as American Airlines Center, where Stars fans were pumped Saturday in anticipation of their team’s playoff push. But the Kraken, other than the second-period lapse and losing 63% of faceoffs throughout, played things fairly evenly and wound up outshooting the Stars 32-31.
“We want to ruin teams’ chances here — we’re playing for our pride,” Driedger said. “Every single guy in there is a competitive guy … we had that three-game win streak and played some pretty good teams there. We’ve continued to play some good hockey in the last two. We just need to clean up some of those second periods.”
Kraken coach Dave Hakstol liked the way his team started the second period, then felt it recovered and deserved a better fate after outshooting Dallas 14-5 in the third. Kraken defensemen Vince Dunn and Will Borgen were both struck in the face by errant high sticks that frame but no penalties were called.
“We just had better energy,” Hakstol said of the recovery, adding Friday’s prior mid-period collapse had been a bitter pill for his team. “It’s not always about zone time, but that’s a good place to start. We were able to come up with some pucks, get some motion and create some opportunities for us … but we couldn’t find the tying goal.”
Things had started much better for the Kraken, with Sheahan opening the scoring just 6:50 into the contest, slotting home a rebound off a point shot by Adam Larsson. Then, it would be Gourde getting his stick on a Derrick Pouliot drive and redirecting it home for the 100th goal of his career and a 2-0 lead just 1:27 before the period’s end.
Also, the Kraken got a Dallas goal overturned that frame when Hintz ran over goalie Driedger and left the net wide open for Pavelski to fire the puck into.
So, instead of being down one the Kraken found themselves up by a pair at intermission with Driedger playing a key role. He made a pair of early stops fewer than two minutes into the game off Joel Kiviranta. Then, right before Gourde’s goal, Robertson led the Stars on a 2-on-1 break and fired a 25-foot wrist shot that Driedger deflected out of harm’s way.
But that was about as good as it would get for the Kraken, who yielded the first Hintz goal off a deflection in close. The puck initially went off defender Dunn’s skate as Robertson attempted a cross-ice pass, then struck the stick of Hintz — who had been knocked to the ice — as it headed into the net.
“They put some pressure on us and we were getting hemmed in our D-zone it seemed like,” Sheahan said. “I felt like in the first, we were having a little more success breaking out and making those little plays in the D-zone to relieve some pressure.”
Hintz had scored a goal and notched two assists when the Stars beat the Kraken 5-2 their first trip to Dallas back in January and continued to do damage in this contest. Not long after the Kraken saw Pouliot take a cross-checking penalty, Hintz quickly converted again by poking a puck away from Larsson, dancing around the defenseman and then beating Driedger with a quick snapshot.
“Overall, it wasn’t a terrible game,” Sheahan said. “We just had some lapses where we took our foot off the gas and they capitalized.”