DENVER — Back in the building where he scored a pair of Game 7 goals to send the Seattle Kraken to the second round of the playoffs, winger Oliver Bjorkstrand scored his second of the night with 31.6 seconds left on the board, sealing another contentious win over the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night at Ball Arena.
Philipp Grubauer made 23 stops as the Kraken won, 4-3.
Matty Beniers took care of some business as well. Thirteen games in, the Kraken’s top-line center was still waiting on his first goal of the season, an eyebrow-raising start for the defending NHL rookie of the year.
He turned in arguably his performance of the season Tuesday in Arizona, soon after coach Dave Hakstol predicted one would bounce in, “whether he shoots it in the net or it bounces in off his ass.”
Sadly it was the former, as Beniers finally broke through against Colorado. He played catch with Seattle defenseman Vince Dunn, scooted up to the faceoff dot and sent a blistering wrist shot under the far-side crossbar.
The recent history between these teams includes several injurious hits. Another joined the list Thursday as Artturi Lehkonen, who assisted on Colorado’s second goal, chased the puck into the corner. Seattle defenseman Adam Larsson was on him, but teammate Jamie Oleksiak slid in to swing at the puck. He gave the much smaller Lehkonen, who was already off-balance, a shove, which sent the Colorado forward head-first into the boards. Lehkonen was helped off the ice while Oleksiak wasn’t penalized.
That fired up the crowd and the Avalanche. Larsson took a penalty soon afterward. The Kraken penalty kill, which allowed two more goals Tuesday and sat 27th (70.3%) in the league, wasn’t dinged, but Nathan MacKinnon was left wide open and scored shortly after the Colorado power play expired.
Dunn prevented an early Colorado lead when he blocked a deposit into the half-open net. The Avalanche were in danger when Devin Shore dropped a pass back to Shane Wright, whose blast was stopped.
The third member of the newly formed fourth line, Ryan Winterton, later sprung Shore on a breakaway. He had a step on Cale Makar, but Colorado goaltender Ivan Prosvetov closed his five hole and denied the chance.
Winterton, 20, made his NHL debut Thursday after he and Wright were recalled from the Kraken’s top affiliate, Coachella Valley of the American Hockey League. They replaced Jordan Eberle and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Eberle was cut by a skate blade in practice Wednesday. Bellemare was dinged up in the Arizona game and, while he took morning skate, he was scratched against Colorado.
Tye Kartye set up new linemate Jaden Schwartz on the game’s first goal late in the first period. Schwartz extended his point streak to eight games (five goals, five assists).
The Kraken nearly made it 2-0 by the end of the period. Yanni Gourde sent a behind-the-back pass to Justin Schultz, who tapped it back to Gourde once he reached the other end of the crease.
Bjorkstrand scored his fifth of the season less than five minutes into the second period. The Kraken were up two goals, and lately, that simply won’t stand. Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram provided the dreaded response goal 28 seconds later.
Both teams played at least a man down in the third period. Colorado’s Lehkonen didn’t return, and Andrew Cogliano went straight down the tunnel after colliding with a teammate. Kraken defenseman Schultz briefly left the game following a hard hit but returned.
Late in the game, Dunn hip checked Colorado’s Andrew Cogliano, who was facing the other direction right in front of the Kraken bench. That didn’t go over well, and Bowen Byram dove in to fight him.