Kraken find their groove again, beat up on Flyers
Feb. 16, 2023 Updated Thu., Feb. 16, 2023 at 11:16 p.m.
As a tonic for all that ailed them, Yanni Gourde and the Kraken could do far worse than a dose of a jet-lagged looking Philadelphia Flyers team that stumbled into town for this one.
By the midway point of Thursday night’s contest, the Kraken already had chased onetime Everett Silvertips netminder Carter Hart and the only remaining suspense was whether Flyers coach John Tortorella would save his inevitable eruption for behind the dressing room door. Gourde scored his first two goals in five weeks during this 6-2 victory, one of them on a power play that had been another source of concern for his team momentarily settled by beating up on the visitors.
“Thanks for the reminder,” Gourde quipped with a postgame smirk when asked about a goal drought that had dated back to Jan. 10. “No, I think it’s good. It’s good to get some confidence. It’s good to shoot the puck and have the puck go in. It’s always good to score a few goals … but at the same time, you don’t change the way you play. You play hard, play into your game and good things happen.”
Good things happened for quite a few Kraken players and the squad’s special teams, with a pair of power play goals — by Gourde and Justin Schultz — and a short-handed marker to open the scoring by Jared McCann off a blocked shot at his own blue line. Gourde had joined McCann on the ensuing 2-on-1 rush but wasn’t surprised to see him keep the puck and snap it past Hart short-side for his 26th of the season.
“He’s a shooter,” Gourde said. “It’s a great shot. If he’s got the short side like that, take it.”
The Kraken improved to 31-18-6 and moved back into sole possession of second place in the Pacific Division. They are also now seven points better than the last Western Conference team trying to qualify for a playoff spot — the Calgary Flames, who lost to Detroit.
It was obvious from the get-go that the Kraken had brought their legs to this game while the Flyers left theirs back in a Super Bowl hangover in Philadelphia. The Kraken set a team record by holding the Flyers to a lone shot on goal in the opening frame — a second Philadelphia shot was removed from the scoresheet at intermission — en route to a 12-1 advantage.
Gourde would finally end his scoring slump with just under six minutes to go in the period, positioning himself at the net front and redirecting a point shot from Schultz.
It would be Schultz scoring on a one-timed power-play slap shot early in the second period that opened up a 3-0 lead with Gourde again creating traffic in front of Hart. The Kraken would run their lead to 5-0 before period’s end on a breakaway goal by Oliver Bjorkstrand that chased Hart and then a one-timer by Gourde on the power play for his second of the night.
Travis Konecny spoiled the shutout bid 14 seconds into the third period with a shot that eluded Philipp Grubauer through a partial screen for his first of two goals that final frame. Grubauer stopped 17 of 19 shots he faced, continuing a stellar stretch of play going on two months in what was his third straight outing.
The six goals of offensive support were the most he’s ever gotten from his Kraken team.
Matty Beniers closed out the Kraken scoring with his 18th of the season, capping a two-point night after being held scoreless his prior 10 games — including one where he suffered a concussion after a cheap shot by Tyler Myers of the Vancouver Canucks. Konecny would score again for Philadelphia before the night was done.
“I mean, it feels good to help the team win and get some under your belt,” Beniers said of snapping his slump. “They come in waves. I knew I was going to get them but when you do it’s definitely nice.”
The Kraken power play had also been in a prolonged slump, entering the night just 23rd in the 32 team league in efficiency and fading fast.
But the Schultz goal and the net front traffic created by Gourde helped break open a game the Flyers were staying close in despite their lack of shot attempts early.
“A simple power play usually gets it done,” Gourde said. “You use the top. Schultz has got a bomb. He’s got a great shot — you’ve got to utilize it. And obviously take the goalie’s eyes away as much as we can.”
Kraken coach Dave Hakstol liked the team effort he saw for the most part and the special teams play that helped prove the difference. Having some difference makers such as Gourde and Beniers finally get over their personal humps didn’t hurt either.
“It’s good for the individuals, especially those guys because they’ve been working hard,” he said. “But more importantly it’s part of building a team win.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.