Jaden Schwartz scores a pair as Kraken get first win after All-Star break
Feb. 12, 2023 Updated Sun., Feb. 12, 2023 at 5:17 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA – Few could forgive Jaden Schwartz if, much like his struggling Kraken team, he wanted to put the recent past behind him and focus on starting fresh.
Schwartz helped accomplish that on an individual and team level in a 4-3 victory over the Flyers early Sunday in a city mostly preoccupied by the night’s upcoming Super Bowl between the hometown Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs. His go-ahead goal right before the second period ended and another just as the final frame got started were enough to halt the Kraken’s three-game losing streak and make the Pacific Division standings a tad more palatable.
“I don’t know what the shots were at the time, but I felt like we were controlling the play a lot in the offensive zone,” Schwartz said of his momentum-turning go-ahead marker on a snap shot from the high slot off a Jordan Eberle feed. “We had some good chances, the goalie made some big saves but I felt our pressure was really good. We had a lot of zone time and pucks were laying there. Any time you get a goal at the end of one period it gives you momentum heading into the next one.”
That third period turned into a nailbiter after Schwartz put the Kraken ahead by a pair just over a minute into the frame, beating goalie Felix Sandstrom with a quick snapper from the right circle. The Flyers pressed throughout and Patrick Brown scored a shorthanded goal late on a shot partially screened by defender Vince Dunn to get his team within one.
Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer then made a huge stop in the final minute off James van Riemsdyk and several from close in. The Kraken also blocked several shots in the closing seconds, including a stop by Matty Beniers – who earlier that shift had missed an empty net chance and then inadvertently iced the puck on another – that left him hobbling to the dressing room postgame.
There was no initial word on Beniers’ condition. But his team got the much-needed two points to move to 30-18-5 and briefly push back against divisional opponents closing in around them.
“Yeah, it was big,” Schwartz said. “Losing the first couple after the break was not ideal. We knew we had a lot more to give. We played a decent game in New Jersey. The Rangers (game) was kind of a slow start. … But it was big to get back in the win column and hopefully we can finish out this road trip with another big win in Winnipeg.”
The goals were the first by Schwartz in exactly a month, dating back to a Jan. 12 win in Boston that’s an unofficial season highlight of sorts for his team. Schwartz would miss a slew of games after that for undisclosed reasons while the Kraken, after winning once more to extend a franchise high streak of victories to eight, had gone 3-6-1 in 10 contests since.
“Not playing the game for three or four weeks, I just felt a little bit off with legs and maybe timing a little bit,” said Schwartz, who returned to start this trip. “I think any player will tell you when you miss some time it’s a little bit of an adjustment. I thought today I felt a little bit better and as a team I thought our five-on-five was better, especially the first two periods.”
The Kraken entered Sunday in fourth place in the division after Edmonton and Los Angeles both passed them on Saturday night.
Not only that, but the Calgary Flames also closed within three points of the Kraken. But after the victory here, the Kraken moved back into a second-place tie and gained another game in-hand on Edmonton after the Oilers lost big to Montreal.
Things didn’t start too positively for the Kraken in this one, with Dunn taking an early penalty and Owen Tippett scoring on the power play with the game barely two minutes old.
The Kraken got a needed equalizer with just over seven minutes remaining in the frame. Jared McCann led a 2-on-1 rush and chipped a perfect pass over to Eberle , who waited for Sandstrom to commit before wristing the puck past him.
Then, with just over a minute to play in the period, Oliver Bjorkstrand caused a turnover in Philadelphia’s end. Tolvanen picked up the puck, skated to the left circle and snapped it by Sandstrom for a Kraken lead.
“Obviously, at the start we took a couple of penalties and we were on our heels a bit,” Eberle said. “But after that I felt we settled in well, created some opportunities and we took a lead.”
Van Riemsdyk tied it early in the second by swatting a puck out of midair and by Grubauer on his backhand. But with the Kraken still controlling play throughout the period, Eberle spotted Schwartz and sent him a pass snapped home for a goal that put the Kraken ahead to stay.
“He does a lot of things in a game that go unnoticed by the average fan,” Eberle said of Schwartz. “Whether it’s winning wall battles, his good stick play and obviously he’s got a good shot. So, it was good to see him get a couple and hopefully he can keep going.”
Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said Schwartz does plenty off the ice as well.
“He’s a guy that keeps a lot of guys around him loose,” Hakstol said. “So, he’s got that presence and he’s pretty timely in the way he delivers some of his leadership.”
Hakstol had wanted his players loosening up after recent struggles, hoping they’d “turn the page” here. Schwartz helped in that facet on the ice as well.
“His goal in the second, for me, was the biggest goal for us,” Hakstol said. “And hey, he’s coming off of some time off … but if you look over the last three games and even today you see a lot of the pace and sharpness coming back game by game. And we saw a lot of it today.”
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