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Kraken suffers first blowout defeat, losing energy quickly as Flyers win 6-1

UPDATED: Mon., Oct. 18, 2021

Philadelphia Flyers’ Scott Laughton, left, and Seattle Kraken’s Mark Giordano chase down a loose puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday in Philadelphia.  (Associated Press)
Philadelphia Flyers’ Scott Laughton, left, and Seattle Kraken’s Mark Giordano chase down a loose puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game Monday in Philadelphia. (Associated Press)
By Geoff Baker Seattle Times

PHILADELPHIA – A couple of uncomfortable, yet undeniable facts collided in rough fashion for the Kraken as players watched the franchise’s first blowout defeat escalate from bad to worse.

Monday night’s 6-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers had started out well enough, with the visitors nearly scoring early off a Joonas Donskoi breakaway and then an empty net chance by Jordan Eberle sensationally swatted away by onetime Everett Silvertips star netminder Carter Hart. But a Kraken team built to survive on high-energy, unrelenting play provided neither from there as its fourth road game in less than a week across three time zones seemed to catch up with a vengeance.

“I think it’s a great lesson for us,’’ Donskoi said. “There are a lot of things we did not do tonight. It starts with winning battles, playing hard, forechecking, being out there for each other. We didn’t do any of that tonight. So, I think that’s the main thing we can learn.

“But it happens. I think it would be real easy to start hanging our heads right now and doing all that. But the good thing is we play again tomorrow. We know we can play.’’

The Kraken indeed had shown an unrelenting, competitive energy in tight contests against Vegas, Nashville and Columbus to open this inaugural season. And by the time players take the ice Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils, it will be their fifth game in eight days on an opposite coast.

While players and coach Dave Hakstol insist there isn’t physical or mental fatigue creeping in, some of the system breakdowns and lapses against the Flyers appeared focus-related more than anything.

“I think what it comes down to is competing early,’’ said defenseman Carson Soucy, author of the lone Kraken goal against Hart late in the second period. “That’s a good team over there. If you’re not ready to go compete, work hard right off the bat, they’re skilled enough and they’re going to make plays.’’

And make them the Flyers did, starting less than a minute after Eberle had been foiled by a diving Hart after backhanding the puck at what appeared to be a vacated net. Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny and Derick Brassard soon after pumped three goals past Philipp Grubauer in a span of just 5:16 to pretty much end all doubt .

Seattle was outshot 16-8 in the period and unlike a similar three-goal deficit in the season opener against Vegas, showed few signs of similarly coming back. Grubauer was pulled for backup Chris Driedger by 8:49 of the second period after Ryan Ellis had one-timed a pass from the slot, followed by Justin Braun trickling a puck through his pads on a 2-on-1 break.

Grubauer wasn’t his best on that final Braun shot, though the odd-man rush marked a theme of the Kraken getting beat to pucks at both ends of the ice.

“It’s a hard team to come back against,’’ said Soucy, who had the third Philadelphia goal deflect in off his skate on a bad-angle shot from the right corner by Brassard. “They’re in the right spots. They’re making good plays … and we just didn’t stick with it long enough.’’

Soucy’s goal was the type of play that had typified his team’s early season start; firing a puck from the left point and then diligently chasing in after his own rebound to beat Hart. But it mattered little, coming in a 5-0 game that had degenerated into a series of pushing and shoving clashes and a spirited fight that had Jamie Oleksiak throwing heavy punches against Flyers tough guy Nick Seeler and landing the majority of them.

A third period bout between Kraken forward Nathan Bastian and one-time Seattle Thunderbirds junior prospect Nate Thompson wasn’t nearly as close. Flyers veteran Thompson walloped Bastian repeatedly, just moments after Joel Farabee had continued the hockey part of the Kraken beatdown by pumping a long rebound past Driedger for the night’s final goal.

“We had a good competitive start, but then we gave up the first goal from 200 feet away,’’ Hakstol said of the initial Giroux goal allowed on a series of breakout passes originating deep in the Flyers’ end. “That was a little bit of a theme tonight on probably four of their goals that we got beat up-ice on.

“And after that first goal we were back on our heels and didn’t really gain any competitive push.’’

Hakstol warned against reading too much into the breakdowns. He said the team’s early challenges, including the tough travel schedule and losing regulars Markus Johansson and Vince Dunn to injury and Calle Jarnkrok to a bout with COVID-19, are all part of a season’s hockey struggles.

“There are a lot of things that it looks like,’’ he said. “We were out of sync. We couldn’t put ourselves on the right track and that’s the end result.’’

Kraken forward Riley Sheahan also wasn’t buying the fatigue excuse. But he’s aware the way the Kraken team is built, no one can afford to take too many shifts off energy-wise.

And when it came to “competing” and “communicating” with each other, he felt the Kraken seemed “disconnected’’ on too many of those shifts.

“Obviously, it’s early,’’ he said. “But we’ve got to be quick to fix some things.’’

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