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Sports >  NHL

Playing another struggling team doesn’t help Kraken as they lose fifth straight

UPDATED: Wed., Nov. 17, 2021

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, right, stops a shot by Seattle Kraken center Jaden Schwartz, center, during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in Seattle. The Blackhawks won 4-2.  (Associated Press)
Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, right, stops a shot by Seattle Kraken center Jaden Schwartz, center, during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021, in Seattle. The Blackhawks won 4-2. (Associated Press)
By Geoff Baker Seattle Times

A Kraken showdown Wednesday night against a team doing just as poorly as they were seemed the perfect home tonic to right some of their early season woes.

Instead, the Kraken again started slow and could not catch up despite pouring it on the final two periods against the Chicago Blackhawks and reigning Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury. The result was a fifth straight Kraken defeat, this one 4-2 in front of 17,151 largely frustrated fans at Climate Pledge Arena.

Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat scored one goal on a breakaway and set up another as the previously reeling Blackhawks captured their fourth in a row. Patrick Kane added another goal for the Blackhawks early in the third period as for the Kraken, now 4-12-1, were plagued by yet slow start to a game from which they couldn’t recover.

Jared McCann finally broke the scoring ice for the Kraken on a goal mouth scramble on the power play with just under six minutes to go in the third and Kirby Dach in the penalty box for slashing. The Kraken pulled goalie Philipp Grubauer for an extra attacker with a little under four minutes to play and got ample pressure on Fleury, who kept turning chances away.

Yanni Gourde finally one-timed a slap shot past Fleury with 1:49 to play, igniting the crowd for one final flurry by the home side. But Jake McCabe added an empty-net goal for the visitors to seal it at 19:34, flipping the puck the length of the ice.

The Kraken outshot the Blackhawks 33-19 overall and 30-1a over the final two periods.

Slow starts cost the Kraken big in a home loss to Anaheim last Thursday and then another against Minnesota on Sunday. They were outshot 14-4 in the first period by the Ducks and then 6-3 by the Wild and had talked much for much of the week about needing to come out stronger.

But on Wednesday, the Kraken managed just three shots in the opening frame for the second consecutive game. They also managed zero shots from the period’s halfway mark through to intermission, falling behind 1-0 at 15:03 on a brilliant tic-tac-toe passing play that ended with Seth Jones depositing the puck into an open right side of the net.

Patrick Kane got the play started by carrying the puck up ice and into the Kraken’s zone. Kane then hit DeBrincat with a cross-ice pass, which the Blackhawks’ forward then one-timed over to Jones for a goal that Kraken netminder Grubauer had zero chance on.

It was the 300th career point for Jones in a period that finished with the Kraken being outshot 8-3. That means, in their last three home games, the Kraken have been outshot 28-10 in the opening frame.

The Kraken looked like a completely different team in the second period, peppering Fleury with chances and ringing a shot off the goal post. By period’s end the Kraken had outshot the visitors 15-6 but found themselves down 2-0 after DeBrincat managed the frame’s only goal by taking a breakout pass at center ice, speeding in on the breakaway and beating Grubauer short side just 2:01 in.

It was the fifth goal in six games for DeBrinkat and seemed all the Kraken needed to break out of their early-game slumber. They were all over Fleury from there. Gourde had the best scoring chance of the period, taking a Jordan Eberle pass alone at the lip of the crease and attempting to flip the puck into the net’s vacated right side.

But Fleury, who’s made a living flip-flopping around his net, somehow threw his body to his left and got his glove up high enough to block Gourde’s shot from hitting pay dirt.

Gourde tried to ignite his team and the fans in the third period, getting into a spirited fight with DeBrincat in which the two forwards threw a plethora of punches. The sight of Gourde smiling as DeBrincat threw punches without having enough reach to actually land any of them very hard seemed to get the crowd going and was one of the Kraken’s highlights of an otherwise quiet night.

But moments later, Kane put things out of reach, taking a cross-ice pass from Philipp Kurashev in the right faceoff circle and beating Grubauer upstairs with a wrist shot. With no defenders around him, the veteran Kane had all day to feint a shot before firing a real one that Grubauer had little chance on.

Grubauer looked more solid than he had in recent outings, keeping the Kraken close with some tough saves. But the Kraken offense just couldn’t get enough pucks past Fleury, who’d struggled the season’s opening month after being traded to Chicago last summer by the Vegas Golden Knights.

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