DALLAS – Six weeks ago and the playoff game of eternity in this building, the Kraken blew a late two-goal lead and needed overtime to salvage the two points they had looked like most of the contest.
The same scenario unfolded again in the second-round opener Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center, involving Yanni Gord continuing his team’s postseason magic by finding the winner in the extra session. Gord’s conversion shot after a goal-mouth scramble at 12:17 of overtime gave the Kraken a 5–4 win and fourth playoff road victory in five attempts this following season.
“This is how you want the series to start,” said Gourde, the Kraken’s fifth different scorer of the night, after the wild finale. “It’s going to be a tough series. We know how good and strong they are, so it’s a huge match to get that first one.”
The Kraken lead the best-of-seven semifinals 1-0 with Game 2 back here on Thursday night.
For the longest time, as in a regular season game, the Kraken’s win seemed to be in the bag much earlier.
But the Kraken were unable to finish off several chances to add to their two-goal lead before Joe Pavelski, in his first game back after suffering a concussion in the first-round opener against Minnesota, scored midway through the third period and again three minutes later. Pavelski’s equalizer capped a special four-goal night for him that sent the crowd into a frenzy and the Kraken scrambled in circles in the final minutes of the game.
But they settled into the break and came back stronger in overtime.
“I liked our response, I liked our composure and I liked our poise,” Gord said. “We’re a very mature bunch out there and we’re confident the process will get it done. Keep it going, keep it up, and eventually we’ll get our break and we got it.”
Justin Schultz, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle also scored for the Kraken, who searched most of the night as if they had stolen this opener. Schultz, Bjorkstrand and Eberl scored three first-half goals in just 52 seconds against Dallas Oettinger goalkeeper – who looked shaky throughout the frame in a rare display of weakness.
It seemed like a gift to the Kraken after a grueling seven-game win over the Colorado Avalanche seemed to be in exchange for a handful of rested superstars.
Pavelski had just scored his second goal in the opening period to give Dallas a 2-1 lead when the Kraken kicked Oettinger’s roof off. Two minutes after Pavelski’s green goal, Schultz and Björkstrand only 11 seconds into the shots to the side of the blocker Oettinger to restore the Kraken’s lead.
Then, before the stunned crowd could tell what was happening, the Kraken got back down the ice and saw Eberle redirect Vince Dunn’s wrist shot from the left point that also found the back of the net.
The Kraken scored four goals against Oettinger on its first 11 shots.
“We had a good first period, and we were obviously very opportunistic there,” Schwartz said. “We did a good job staying with him. We were getting aggressive, putting pucks at the net and getting some action in there. It was kind of a wild first period, but I thought we were on our toes and being aggressive.”
That score held at 4-2 and Kraken will miss several golden chances lately to put the game away. The biggest event came when Matty Benners was staring at the wide open right side of the net but hit his shot off the post with Oettinger out of position.
“He’s a world wide ranger, so any time you play against a guy like that, you have to get traffic,” Schwartz said. “Roll his eyes as far away as possible. We got a couple of nice pictures, too. The guys were picking the angles.”
Oettinger entered with an excellent . 926 save percentage in this postseason and a reputation as a great goaltender, thanks to his close first-round win from the Calgary Flames a year earlier when he held his team in Game 7 overtime. He made an early stop from Benners’ close range just moments before Pavelski skated to the ice, made a pass in the right circle and fired the puck past Philipp Grubauer to open the scoring with only 2:25 left in the game.
It was the first time this postseason Kraken team had failed to open the scoring after doing so in all seven games against Colorado before sacking the defending champions in Game 7 on Sunday. But Kraken kept things basically intact after the early setback, and Schwartz had 8:35 to go in the frame from a front net feed by Morgan Geekie – beating Oettinger between the pads from a very close range.
And although Pavelski would give Dallas the lead after 53 seconds, it would only be two minutes before Schultz beat Oettinger’s blocker to start the Kraken’s goal charge.
Kraken head coach Dave Huxtol said he felt the team had “heavy legs” at times—particularly during the tough end period in the third inning—as part of Colorado’s tough series. But he expected her to come in and also knew that the team’s “rhythm” of playing every other day might be enough to offset tired legs and take on a Dallas team working on a long rest.
“I think at the end of the day there were trade-offs,” Haxtol said. “There were some heavy legs but we also carried on some good feeling coming out of Game 7.”