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Kraken hold on for 4-3 victory over Oilers, fifth win in seven games

·4 min read
Elaine Thompson/AP

Defenseman Adam Larsson watched the final 90 seconds of Friday’s game from the penalty box.

Called for roughing, Larsson headed off the ice with the Kraken clinging to a one-goal lead against his former team. Edmonton had already scored a goal in the third period as they looked to mount a comeback, and Seattle was faced with the difficult task of holding off Connor McDavid & Co. in the game’s final moments.

And there was Larsson, forced to observe after his potentially costly mistake.

“Stressful,” he called the experience afterward — but he was able to say it with a smile.

Faced with the same situation not so long ago, Seattle likely would’ve crumbled. But that wasn’t the case against the Oilers — the Kraken held on for a 4-3 victory — and it hasn’t been the case for a while.

Seattle returned to Climate Pledge Arena on Friday after a four-game road swing where they earned five out of a possible eight points. The Kraken have now won five out of their last seven games, earning at least a point in four straight games.

It’s a far cry from the team that was struggling so mightily last month — the one that lost six straight games and eight of nine, the one that earned just four out of a possible 12 points during a six-game home stand. The difference isn’t just in the results. The Kraken can feel it, too.

“Everything’s great,” said forward Colin Blackwell. “I think we’re getting a lot of great efforts from up and down the line-up. I think tonight’s a great, great example. We had some adversity, but we were able to weather the storm. I think maybe in the beginning of the season, that might have happened and we might have lost the game or something like that.

“We really kind of got our identity right now. … I think we’re getting a lot of good efforts from everybody and I think that’s what it takes in this league. There’s positivity around the room and you see it on the bench, too, whether somebody not win a battle or maybe you do win a battle and everybody’s kind of cheering each other on. That’s what it takes to kind of motivate one another and support one another and good things are happening for us.”

It took just 49 seconds for the Kraken to take the lead as Yanni Gourde scored his sixth goal of the season. After Leon Draisaitl tied the game with a power-play goal six-minutes later, Larsson reclaimed the lead with the Kraken with his second goal of the season. Seattle entered the first intermission with a 2-1 lead.

The Kraken picked Larsson from Edmonton in the expansion draft. Selected fourth overall by New Jersey in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Larsson was traded to the Oilers in July 2016. He was an alternate captain for Edmonton during the 2017-18 season and now serves in that role for Seattle.

Edmonton’s Evan Bouchard opened the scoring in the second period to even the score at 2-2. But the Kraken responded. First, Colin Blackwell took advantage of a turnover in the neutral zone to put Seattle up 3-2. Alex Wennberg then scored to give the Kraken a 4-2 advantage heading into the third.

“We’re a much more mature group now,” Gourde said. “I think we’re making better decisions. We know what to do. We’re confident in our group. We got to keep pushing.

“The only way we’re going to win games in this league is by playing 60 minutes. You can’t let your foot off the gas. When you do that, teams are going to pick you apart. … Just finding the right identity. I think we’ve been doing a better job lately of doing that and what we do works.”

That score held until McDavid scored on a tip-in with 8:16 left in the third period. The Kraken could have wilted, but they held on for the victory despite the frantic finish. Goaltender Phillip Grubauer finished with 29 saves on 32 shots, a .906 save percentage.

“We have a little bit more cohesion,” said Seattle head coach Dave Hakstol. “That’s natural. That’s going to come from being in these situations together.”

The Kraken will be back at home on Monday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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