SEATTLE – A stretch of six wins in 11 games heading into Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames isn’t necessarily “what we’ll write home about,” Seattle Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said when he met the media beforehand.
What he meant was that while it represented a step in the right direction, it is not the team’s long-range goal to play roughly .500 hockey.
Still, what he also said is that the 6-5 run represented a measure of progress in an inaugural season that has been more of a challenge than many might have expected during the optimism of last spring, when the team’s roster was first assembled.
“It says we’ve played hard,” Hakstol said of the 6-5 mark before Saturday. “We’ve played good, sound hockey.”
Proof that a lot of work remains came in the result of Saturday’s game at Climate Pledge Arena — a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Flames, the leaders of the Pacific Division. The same division at which the Kraken reside at the bottom.
The Kraken fell to 23-43-6 while Calgary improved to 44-19-9 in winning its third game of the year in three tries against Seattle.
The teams will play again Tuesday in Calgary, Alberta.
On the team’s first Pride Night, the Kraken came out with energy, despite having played roughly 48 hours before in Chicago.
The Kraken weren’t hurt much early by the Flames’ No. 1 line of Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk — one of the best in the NHL with each ranking in the top 16 in the league in goals scored.
Instead, it was the other lines that did damage to the Kraken throughout.
The Flames scored first on a goal from Blake Coleman, part of Calgary’s third line, just 3:55 into the game.
But if anyone worried that the rout was on, the Kraken quickly said otherwise. Karson Kuhlman fired a slap shot from just inside the right faceoff circle exactly 5 minutes into the first period to tie it at 1. It was Kuhlman’s third goal of the season.
But just when the Kraken thought they might get out of the first period with a tie, Calgary’s Trevor Lewis decided otherwise. Lewis’ redirect of a pass in front of the net from Noah Hanfin made it 2-1 with just 16.5 seconds to play in the first period.
Calgary never trailed again.
The Flames began to truly take control in the second period, grabbing a 3-1 lead on a goal by Michael Stone on a power play. The Kraken had gone a man down for the first time in the game thanks to a tripping penalty on Carson Soucy.
The Kraken had a chance to get back in it when Stone was called for a minor for holding at the 12:42 mark of the second period. The Kraken went 1:06 without scoring. But Calgary’s Tyler Toffoli was then called for tripping and Seattle had a 5-on-3 for 54 seconds.
But the Flames killed both penalties.
Then, just a little while later, with 3:22 to go in the period, the Flames were called for yet another penalty, holding on Rasmus Andersson, giving the Kraken yet another chance.
But yet again, the Kraken were foiled, going without a goal and entered the final period down 3-1.
The Kraken had chances throughout the third period, including in the late going when the Flames were penalized for too many men on the ice.
But the Kraken also had to kill two power plays for penalties of its own — on Will Borden for tripping and Soucy for hooking — and neither team scored in the third period until the final minutes.
Seattle pulled goalie Phillipp Grubauer, who got the start less than 48 hours after pitching a shutout against Chicago — his second of the season — with just over three minutes left.
Tiffoli added an empty-net goal shortly with 1:07 left to make it 4-1.
The game marked a tough turnaround for the Kraken, who played on Wednesday in St. Louis and Thursday in Chicago. That meant the team did not hold its usual morning skate.
But Hakstol said before the game he would not consider that a suitable excuse.
“Well, that’s the schedule,’’ Hakstol said. “What I would say is a good pro is able to show up and compete hard in an imperfect situation because there are a lot of imperfect situations.’’
The Kraken showed again Saturday that they are an imperfect situation themselves.
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