There was a buzz — maybe of concern — through Climate Pledge Arena when Kraken starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer headed down the tunnel, seemingly of his own accord, during a media timeout midway through Saturday’s game after allowing three goals on 10 shots.
Grubauer has a history of groin and lower-body injuries, and a short and stressful spring can start with such an exit. He missed a month earlier this season after one. The team later clarified he was doubtful to return due not to injury but a non-COVID illness.
“That’s my understanding, that an illness came on at some point in time after the drop of the puck,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said after the game.
“He came out when he no longer felt good.”
That’s a less dire outlook as Grubauer has been the Kraken’s clear top guy for the past month. Martin Jones backstopped the Kraken the first half of the season and remains tied for 10th in the league in wins despite his limited recent action. He hasn’t looked quite as comfortable in scattered February and March starts. He has one win since the All-Star break paired with five losses, including Saturday’s.
The latest record blemish wasn’t all Jones’ fault, but that’s a quirk of hockey. Grubauer allowed the Kraken’s first three goals, but Jones was in net for the deciding goal in the 6-4 Edmonton win. That’s why he absorbed the loss.
Evander Kane’s first goal was the worst Grubauer surrendered Saturday. He was in close quarters with Kailer Yamamoto, who scored Edmonton’s second goal from the doorstep. Kane then took a blistering pass from teammate Connor McDavid and sent it into the back door, a split second ahead of a sliding Grubauer, 43 seconds into the second period.
Later, Jones had barely finished stretching out when Edmonton’s McDavid took it up the side of the ice and found Zach Hyman lurking near the hash marks. Hyman snapped one in for a 4-2 Edmonton lead.
“Any time any goalie goes into the net, you want to try and limit the high-quality chances,” Kraken winger Jordan Eberle said. “We gave up one early right down the slot. So it doesn’t help.”
McDavid is the uncontested leader in league scoring. With 58 goals and 134 points through 70 games, he has 30 points on his closest competitor — teammate Leon Draisaitl, who had three assists Saturday.
Up against all of that was the Kraken bench, shortened again when forward John Hayden left soon after Grubauer with a lower-body injury. It was conspicuously short a backup goalie the rest of the game. An emergency backup goalie was presumably on hand but remained out of sight. Jones made 10 more saves and gave up two more goals.
“It sucks, seeing guys go down like that,” said Kraken winger Oliver Bjorkstrand, who scored late in the second period. “We feel comfortable, obviously, when [Jones] is in net. Just got to keep going and focus on the game.”
About a dozen blue and orange hats drifted onto the ice midway through the third period after Kane finished his hat trick. McDavid got one of his own with less than four minutes left, beating Jones five-hole.
The game was lost, but at least without a blow to the Kraken net.
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