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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Kraken battle Oilers until final horn, but can’t find equalizer in critical defeat

By Geoff Baker Seattle Times

SEATTLE – As a critical Saturday matinee performance ticked down to its conclusion, a desperate Kraken squad relentlessly pressed the Edmonton Oilers for a goal that would draw them even.

Scoring has not come easy for the Kraken and this latest effort was no exception despite a playoff-bound Edmonton team having given up more goals this season than the home side. But on a day they had to win to begin paring down a formidable gap between them and a final Western Conference playoff spot, the Kraken took a 2-1 loss because of their inability to find the back of the net.

Leon Draisaitl one-timed a cross-ice pass from Connor McDavid in behind Philipp Grubauer from the right circle midway through the contest to put the Oilers ahead.

Brett Kulak then added some insurance 8 minutes into the final period when his 60-foot shot from the left point deflected in off Kraken defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, who’d been tying up Draisaitl on the play.

Just moments earlier, Oleksiak had a chance at a rebound in front of the Edmonton net but couldn’t get his stick on the puck.

Eeli Tolvanen finally got the Kraken on the board with 6:37 to go in regulation, his power-play shot along the ice deflecting in off the glove of a defender and then the leg of goalie Stuart Skinner.

But the Kraken got no closer, even after pulling Grubauer for an extra attacker while on the power play for the final 53 seconds of regulation, giving them a 6-on-4 advantage.

The Kraken were all around the Edmonton net in the final seconds, but couldn’t convert.

Grubauer was again strong, as he had been his first four starts coming off injury and especially on Thursday in delivering a shutout win over Pittsburgh when his team struggled at times and found the net only twice. But Grubauer can’t post shutouts every contest, just as Joey Daccord couldn’t do the same for more than two months as the team’s injury replacement and eventual No. 1 goalie.

So, Draisaitl’s goal meant the Kraken needed to score. And from the start of this game until the final horn sounded, they struggled to do just that


Matty Beniers took a pass in the slot 5 minutes into the third period, but his ensuing wrist shot was right into the chest of Oilers goalie Skinner.

The Kraken had some of their best looks at Skinner the opening 10 minutes of the game, but either shot the puck wide of the goal or – in the case of Jordan Eberle and Alex Wennberg – were robbed by the Edmonton goalie in close.

The Kraken had entered this game on a 5-1-1 run, but also seven points out of the final playoff spot.

And unless that gets closer, Kraken general manager Ron Francis could very well start shipping away veterans such as Wennberg, Eberle, Justin Schultz and Tomas Tatar by Friday’s deadline. All are pending unrestricted free agents and the team’s incentive to keep them and have them walk away for nothing at season’s end becomes less palatable if a playoff goal becomes unrealistic.

With 22 games remaining, a seven-point gap looms large, especially with the team needing to play road games in Calgary and Winnipeg ahead of the deadline. There are also a bunch of other teams piled up alongside the Kraken shooting for that same playoff goal.

The Kraken have spent the entire season trying to overcome a sluggish start to get back into contention and as of two weeks ago they were still right up alongside the wild-card leaders. But then Nashville went on a season-high seven-game win streak, during which time the Kraken also played well but yielded three points to them courtesy of a loss in regulation and an overtime loss.