The Seattle Kraken take to the ice during the exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks at the Spokane Arena on Sunday. The Kraken beat the Canucks 5-3.
The center-ice logo remained that of the Spokane Chiefs, but the jerseys in the stands said otherwise.
On Sunday night, Spokane Arena belonged to the Seattle Kraken.
Playing against what will most certainly become a primary rival of the NHL’s newest team, the Kraken opened their inaugural preseason with a 5-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in front of an announced crowd of 10,208.
“It was awesome,” said Kraken winger Jared McCann, referring to the fans in the stands. “Just kind of crazy seeing people for the first time again. Some of us haven’t seen them in a long time.”
It marked the first stop on a three-city, in-state tour for the Kraken, who will play Friday in Everett and Saturday in Kent in other Western Hockey League arenas.
“(The crowd) was unbelievable to be honest,” said Seattle forward Ryan Donato. “I’m from the East Coast, so I’ve never been out here, and it just goes to show how much hockey is growing.”
He said, too, that the team feels like it is Washington’s – not just Seattle’s – professional hockey team.
“I think yeah, I would hope so, right?” Donato said. “Tonight it sure looked like it.”
McCann said the team came out a little bit nervous, and that appeared to show in the first period.
The Canucks scored the game’s first two goals, one by Jack Rathbone right after a Kraken power play elapsed, and the other by Brock Boeser on the Canucks’ own power play. They took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
But three minutes into the second, the Kraken scored their first official (preseason) goal, when Nathan Bastian flipped a pass from behind the net to Riley Sheahan in front of it. Sheahan backhanded the puck into the bottom right corner.
Midway through the period, McCann tucked a shot from the left circle into the top corner for a power-play goal that evened the score, 2-2. With 8:59 left in the period, Donato took a cross-crease feed from Jordan Eberle and buried it for the Kraken’s third goal, giving them their first lead, 3-2.
“I think at the end of the day we’re just playing hockey,” Donato said. “It’s tough, obviously, because we’re all experiencing this together and we just started practicing the power play this morning. I think that gave us the idea, (if) we’ve got to practice it, let’s just go play.”
The Canucks tied it up later in the period, but in the third the Kraken retook the lead on what was essentially an own goal by the Canucks off a faceoff in their own zone. Kraken center Morgan Geekie – who played for the Tri-City Americans from 2014 -18 – got credit for the goal, returning the lead to the Kraken, 4-3.
Geekie scored again with 5:23 left in the third, this time on a wrister from the right circle, to increase Seattle’s lead to 5-3.
“It was pretty businesslike to be honest with you,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said of the team’s approach to the game. “I think everybody was excited to get going. I think that’s natural when you get into your first exhibition game, especially as a group that’s playing for the first time together and is having the honor to put these jerseys on.”
After the game’s first whistle, the public address announcer pointed out Vancouver coach Travis Green, who played for the Spokane Chiefs from 1986 -90. In 258 regular-season games with the Chiefs, Green scored 137 goals and added 165 assists. His 302 career points are third-most in team history.
“(I) came to the city as a 15-year-old boy and left when I was 19,” Green said. “I met a lot of people that really helped me along the way. I’m grateful that I came here. … Whenever you get older and you think about things in the past, there’s so many people you’d like to thank that helped you, and I really feel that way. Whenever I come back to Spokane especially.”
The Kraken are scheduled to open the regular season on Oct. 12 on the road against the Vegas Golden Knights. Their first game at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle is slated for Oct. 23 against the Canucks, the first contest in a four-game homestand.
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