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Sports >  NHL

Oliver Bjorkstrand saves Kraken in OT after Red Wings erase early lead

March 2, 2023 Updated Thu., March 2, 2023 at 7:06 p.m.

Geoff Baker Seattle Times

DETROIT — During the first intermission of this latest Kraken walk on the wild side, the in-house broadcast crew advised fans via the video scoreboard at Little Caesars Arena that while the visitors can score goals they also tend to give up plenty.

Their prediction that Thursday’s game was far from over despite a Kraken lead looked prescient by the time goaltender Martin Jones was pulled early in the second period, having yielded the latest plethora of goals just a bit too easily. With the Kraken the only playoff-positioned team inactive on the recent trade front thus far ahead of Friday’s noon deadline, pulling out this much-needed 5-4 overtime win over the Red Wings in a game in which they squandered multiple leads won’t ease the nerves of fans concerned about defense and goaltending down the stretch.

But it garnered them a critical two points.

Oliver Bjorkstrand’s goal on a wrist shot from the left circle in the dying seconds of a power play sealed the victory with 1:27 to go in the extra frame. The Kraken had been blanked on four prior power-play chances, including one in the closing seconds of regulation.

Philipp Grubauer at least provided some optimism on the netminding front, allowing just one screened goal after replacing Jones before making several key third period saves to keep the game tied.

Jared McCann had given the Kraken a two-goal lead midway through the opening frame by scoring his career high 28th and 29th of the season, fueling a Kraken squad that had come out flying and fighting early.

Yanni Gourde took one — make that several blows — for his team in a mismatched opening minute bout with Red Wings forward Adam Erne, who had two inches and 38 pounds on him. McCann then scored on a nifty net front feed from Jordan Eberle just seconds after the combatants headed to the box — exactly the type of start coach Dave Hakstol had been looking for.

Unfortunately for the Kraken, they barely had time to continue generating momentum before Jones yielded his latest of several suspect goals in recent contests. Jones let a short side snapper from defenseman Ben Chiarot get by him from 29 feet out fewer than two minutes after McCann’s opening snipe, setting the stage for a wild night where no lead was safe.

Bjorkstrand restored the Kraken lead by the 5:33 mark of that wild opening frame, taking a nice backhand pass from Alex Wennberg and firing the puck into an empty net deserted by Detroit goalie Ville Husso. McCann would make it a two-goal game roughly seven minutes later, snapping a puck in off a defenseman and Husso’s pad for his third marker in two games on this road trip.

But with the visitors looking strong as the intermission approached, the Red Wings took advantage of a delayed penalty call and moved the puck around a little too freely against the Kraken’s scrambling defenders. Moritz Seider let an ensuing wrist shot go from the point and it deflected in off the burly Erne, who’d been allowed to stand there screening Jones.

So, the Kraken headed to intermission up by just one in a game that would be tied fewer than three minutes into the second period as Jonathan Berggren took a pass from Filip Zedina and fired the puck into a net deserted by a flopping, out-of-position Jones.

Jones had looked shaky moments earlier on another Red Wings chance and by the time Berggren’s tying shot went in, Hakstol had seen enough and Grubauer was sent into the game.

The final line for Jones was three goals allowed on 12 shots, just one game after he yielded a couple of soft second period goals in St. Louis before settling down and making some big saves. Goaltending has been an issue for the Kraken since their opening week of last season and while it settled down for a spell under Grubauer, some of the prior issues have surfaced in recent games.

It didn’t help that the Kraken were caught running around in their own end a bit too much in this one. At the best of times, they’ve succeeded when protecting Jones — and Grubauer to a lesser extent — by keeping shots to the perimeter, minimizing traffic in front and clearing away rebounds.

The Kraken regained a 4-3 lead just three minutes after Grunauer entered the game, doing some strong forechecking down low that resulted in Jaden Schwartz converting another close-in pass from Eberle. But the Red Wings would tie it 4-4 with just more than five minutes to go in the frame, with defenders again scrambling around in their own end and defenseman Jake Walman finally wristing home a puck from the high slot behind a screened Grubauer.

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