They announced a sellout, but there were so many gaps in the seating it looked like a hockey player’s smile.
Maybe it was the 2 p.m. start time on a holiday that people wanted to spend elsewhere. More likely, it was because the Kraken hadn’t won a game in over a month — or a home game since Dec. 3.
No one here is pretending the buzz surrounding this team has completely vanished. But the flame this city saw when the Kraken opened their inaugural season in October is whittling toward a flicker. Had Seattle lost its 10th straight game vs. the Blackhawks on Monday, the Climate Pledge Arena crowd might have stormed the ice in protest. This season has been a combination of disappointment, dysfunction and disaster.
Fortunately for those home fans, the Kraken did deliver a victory worth those hefty ticket prices. They rallied from a goal down in the third period, tied the game at 2-2, and outscored Chicago 2-0 in the shootout.
Maybe that win is like a band-aid on a gunshot wound given the Kraken’s last-place standing in the Pacific Division, where they trail the seventh-place Canucks by 11 points. But Monday afternoon was at least something — even if those triumphant feelings will turn out to be fleeting.
“You got a choice. You can find frustration or you can find a little resolve and go back to work. I believe our group has continued to do that,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “It’s not fun. You go through tough stretches where things are not going well. No one’s ducking that. It’s not a lot of fun, but tonight was a hell of a lot of fun.”
It’s true that boredom was in short supply Monday. After the Blackhawks went up 1-0 on the heels of a Kraken turnover, Vince Dunn tied the game for Seattle off assists from Adam Larsson and Riley Sheahan.
Two minutes after that, the Blackhawks went ahead on a power-play goal scored by Brandon Hagel. And then two minutes into the third period, Kraken center Ryan Donato scored an unassisted goal to tie the game.
Getting anything past Chicago goalie Marc-André Fleury was a feat unto itself Monday afternoon. Last year’s Vezina Award winner had 35 saves, including a myriad in the overtime period to force the game into a shootout. His smacking his stick into the net after the Kraken’s Joonas Donskoi sealed the win in the shootout illustrated how frustrated Fleury was in letting a masterpiece get away.
What ensued was the Kraken celebrating a victory on its home ice for the first time in nearly six weeks.
“It’s very relieving. I’ve said this to a lot of guys, but I’ve been praying for a win for a long time,” said Donato, who scored the first shootout goal for Seattle. “Sometimes when things get tough you kind of forget what it feels like to have good things happen like that. Tonight, things were great. Hopefully we can get some steam off that and keep it rolling.”
This should be the time where the Kraken (11-23-4) enjoy having the Seattle sports world all to themselves. The Seahawks are done. The Mariners are enmeshed in MLB’s labor dispute and might not take the field for a couple of more months. MLS play doesn’t start until March, and though the Huskies men’s basketball team has won three of its past four, there are still many reasons to be skeptical of its future success.
Unfortunately, the Kraken haven’t seized on this chance like so many in this city hoped they would. Sure, expecting them to make it to the Stanley Cup Final like Las Vegas did in its inaugural season five years ago would have been unfair — but for the Kraken to have the fourth-worst record in the NHL? For them to enter the contest 30th in point differential, 28th in goals allowed per game and 23rd in goals per game? It’s just not acceptable in this rabid sports town.
Maybe Monday was a launching point. There is still more than half a season to play and half the teams in this league make the playoffs.
As Donskoi said, “You could feel that everybody just wanted to get the win out of the way and kind of start it from a fresh table after this game and try to build that winning streak.”
The Kraken could sure use that. That other streak seemed to take its toll on their fans.