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Sports >  NHL

Vince Dunn extends club-record points streak to give Kraken win in OT

March 16, 2023 Updated Thu., March 16, 2023 at 10:13 p.m.

Geoff Baker Seattle Times

SAN JOSE, Calif. — It wasn’t lost on any of the supposed 11,000 or so fans still bothering to show up for games here that the home team hadn’t won in this building since the last time the Kraken visited.

That the visit in question to SAP Center was nearly four weeks ago explained the Kraken badly wanting to secure two valuable points against the San Jose Sharks, owners of the NHL’s worst home record by five country miles and counting. And that’s why the Kraken’s urgency grew far bigger than the seemingly inflated official crowd count as Thursday night’s eventual 2-1 overtime win dragged on far too close for comfort.

Vince Dunn won it 1:58 into the extra session with a wrist shot through the legs of Sharks goalie James Reimer, extending his points streak to a franchise record 11 games.

Trailing by a goal with just under 13 minutes to play, Yanni Gourde fired a long stretch pass up ice to send Oliver Bjorkstrand off on a breakaway chance. Bjorkstrand beat goalie Reimer with a top shelf snapshot for the first Kraken goal in this building in nearly 5½ periods of play this season.

Things had been scoreless until William Eklund was awarded a penalty shot after being slashed by Jaden Schwartz on a breakaway chance 1:18 into the final frame. Eklund promptly moved in on his penalty try and calmly deposited the puck between goalie Philipp Grubauer’s legs to undoubtedly send Kraken fans back home into full-fledged panic mode.

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol shuffled his lineup pregame, inserting veteran John Hayden fresh from his AHL call-up and 6-foot-6 former San Jose defenseman Jaycob Megna for added big-boy presence against a Sharks team that pushed them around a bit too much in that 4-0 shutout back on Feb. 20. Given what he’d also seen in consecutive losses to Dallas and another prior to Ottawa the past week, Hakstol wasn’t leaving anything to chance with his lineup.

“We’re in stretch run time here, there’s four weeks to go in the season,” Hakstol had said right before the contest. “We’re in the thick of a playoff battle. We want to have different options available to us.”

A Kraken team that entered six points ahead of the Nashville Predators and seven up on the Calgary Flames for the final Western Conference playoff spot could have used some added cushion a victory here would provide. Nashville lost to fall eight back but the Flames won big over Vegas to maintain the same seven point gap.

The Sharks were just 6-18-8 at home coming in and hadn’t beaten any team twice in this arena. They’d also dropped 13 of their prior 15 games overall to remain just two points up on Columbus for last place overall in the league.

Still, despite Hayden and Brandon Tanev throwing some first period weight around, the sluggish game had trouble getting out of its starting blocks.

The Kraken were forced to kill off a penalty just 74 seconds in, which blunted some of their early attempts at momentum. And the Sharks generated some bona fide opportunities, only to be denied by Grubauer.

Grubauer had kept the Kraken close with some timely saves, luck from a buzzer-beater goal post hit right before first intermission and the Sharks messing up a subsequent 2-on-0 breakaway opportunity by forgetting to shoot the puck.

Moments before Bjorkstrand’s tying marker, Grubauer made a huge stop on a spinaround try from the high slot by Kevin Labanc to keep it a one-goal game.

On the Kraken’s end, Schwartz had intercepted a second period clearance from Sharks goalie Reimer and had the netminder down and out with defenders scrambling backward to protect a vacated net.

The Sharks eventually hurled enough bodies between Schwartz and the net to prevent him or any teammates from getting a shot off as Reimer finally made it back into position.

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