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After lighting delay, Kraken can’t fix on-ice issues in loss to Rangers

By Geoff Baker Seattle Times

Given their oft-mentioned issues lighting the lamp this early season, the last thing the goal-hungry Kraken needed was a genuine electrical problem wreaking havoc and delays inside Climate Pledge Arena throughout Saturday night’s contest.

Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke was even spotted up in the arena’s rafters trying unsuccessfully to resolve the partially dimmed lights in the rink’s eastern portion, which caused an early 10-minute delay and then more stoppages as both teams kept changing ends midway through each period to offset any disadvantages. Leiweke and company will have plenty of time to resolve the situation as the Kraken’s 4-1 loss to the visiting New York Rangers was their final home game before an upcoming four-city, cross-continent road trip.

And right now, this Kraken team needs somebody to flip a switch after their fifth defeat in six tries leaves them 1-4-1 on the season. They’ve now scored just 11 goals in their six games — seven of them in one contest for their lone victory and four combined in the remaining five losses.

The Kraken mustered just two shots on goal in a middle period that saw Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere score in the final seven minutes to snap a 1-1 tie and put the Rangers ahead to stay. Kakko’s goal came less than a minute after both teams had again switched ends due to the lights, followed by Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer appearing to lose track of a Jacob Trouba point blast that tricked past him into the crease before the loose puck was slammed home.

Lafreniere’s goal was more typical, with the former No. 1 overall draft pick from 2020 taking a pass uncovered in the slot and firing a wrist shot past Grubauer from point blank range with just 1:58 to go in the period.

Panarin scored his second of the night six minutes into the third period — in the darker end of the rink — pouncing on a loose puck off a rush and picking the corner with a quick shot Grubauer had no chance on.

The Rangers briefly woke the Kraken up with the game all-but-decided midway through the third when Yanni Gourde got checked high and toward the visitors’ bench area, where a player took a swipe over the boards at him and Gourde swung back. Adam Fox and then Chris Kreider both cross-checked Gourde to the ice in succession, prompting Kraken players to react and charge toward the visitors’ bench where a brief melee erupted.

Somehow, only Gourde and Kreider were penalized, each getting double-minors for roughing, though Jared McCann started a spirited fight with Vincent Trocheck — who’d taken an earlier run at Kraken defenseman Brian Dumoulin — not long after play resumed. The rest of the game finished without incident.

All the switching of ends likely did little to help the concentration of either Grubauer or his veteran counterpart Johnathan Quick, who’d grown up a Rangers fan in Connecticut and was making his first start for that team at age 37 in a career now spanning 735 contests. Both first period goals were scored at the dim end of the ice, the Kraken opening things with a one-timed slapper by Justin Schultz from the left circle off a Dumoulin feed and then the Rangers countering with an Artemi Panarin wrister from close range shortly after the teams switched ends for the first time.

The Kraken are in the midst of one of the toughest opening 10-game stretches of any NHL team, playing seven against playoff teams from last spring along with the home openers of both the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues. The only remaining non-playoff team they’ll face the next four contests is on Tuesday night against the much-improved Detroit Red Wings, now 4-1-0 after beating Ottawa earlier Saturday.

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol after Saturday’s morning skate seemed to suggest his team had moved past its goal-scoring woes with a decisive victory over Carolina last Thursday in which seven different players lit the lamp. Hakstol cited the scoring outburst as proof that prior concerns about his players perhaps being too tense about their slow start and not converting chances into goals was overblown.

“You (media) guys talked about everybody tightening up and squeezing,” Hakstol said. “I didn’t think that was … it was only three games. I didn’t think that was — three games into the season — really an issue. If that’s where we’re at, then we’re not as mature of a team as I think we are.

“So, the guys pushed and we got one result. Now, we’ve got to turn that into a really good performance here tonight.”

Things appeared headed in the Kraken’s favor before game time when all-star Rangers netminder Igor Shesterkin got the night off in favor of Quick, the longtime Los Angeles Kings goalie traded midway through last season and who signed with New York this summer as a free agent. Quick made his Rangers debut late in the second period of a loss to Nashville on Thursday, relieving Shesterkin after he’d uncharacteristically allowed four goals on 18 shots.

But Quick didn’t have anywhere near Shesterkin’s workload in this debut start, facing only 10 shots by the Kraken the first two periods and 19 overall. His best stop came with New York ahead by three in the final period, robbing Jaden Schwartz with a glove stop of a puck that appeared headed into a vacated left side of his net.