Kraken doesn’t know how to beat the lowly Coyotes yet
How can you explain that?
The Kraken are 2-0 this season against the NHL-leading Florida Panthers and now 0-2 against the Arizona Coyotes, the league’s second-worst record holders ( 12-31-4).
The Kraken started the unofficial second half of the season with one of their most disappointing losses, losing 5-2 to Arizona on Wednesday night at Climate Pledge Arena.
The Kraken scored with around four minutes to go to draw it 3-2, but a pair of empty-netters ended their hopes of a comeback.
“We definitely had our chances of winning the game today,” said Kraken winger Callie Jarnkrok, who scored her eighth goal of the season in the third period. “But we just couldn’t put him in the net. You have to give their goalkeeper a lot of credit. He had an exceptional evening.
Indeed, he did, as Karel Vejmelka stopped 34 of 36 shots, including two that appeared to be sure scores for Seattle.
The first meeting between the two teams produced arguably the worst defeat of the season for the Kraken.
Arizona was winless in 11 games and trailed 2-0 in the first minute at home. But the Coyotes, who had scored three goals in their previous five games, unlikely rallied for a 5-4 win on Nov. 6.
The Kraken (15-28-4) had won three of five games before that bad loss, and they had some momentum this time around as well. They have won five of their last nine games before the All-Star break, including a 3-0 win over the New York Islanders — the first shutout in franchise history — in their previous game on Feb. 2.
Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said Wednesday morning it would be important for his team to get off to a good start as they had just suffered a week of layoffs as Arizona played the day before, losing 5-1 in Vancouver.
But it was Arizona that got off to a good start.
The Kraken weren’t clean early and Arizona turned a Seattle turnover in their own end into the game’s first goal. The puck ended up on the stick of Phil Kessel, who deftly guided it around Seattle goaltender Philipp Grubauer and into the net at 4:07 of the first period.
Grubauer, who was in goal for the team’s first shutout a week earlier, had little chance of stopping Kessel’s shot, who scored the 397th goal of his career on a pass from JJ Moser.
The Kraken looked invigorated by the Arizona goal and controlled most of the first period afterward, with 15 shots on goal in the first 20 minutes to eight for the Coyotes. But thanks to several great saves from Vejmelka – as well as a few shots that hit the post – the Coyotes held on to a one-goal lead heading into the second period.
Another Kraken turnover proved costly in the second half. The Coyotes turned Seattle’s mistake into a breakaway for Nick Schmaltz, who beat Grubauer. The goal, assisted by Alex Galchenyuk and Ilya Lyubushkin, gave Arizona a 2-0 lead at 14:51 of the period.
Seattle opened the second period with 1:41 left on the power play and had five shots on goal in that period, but just four the rest of the period.
The Kraken desperately needed a quick start in the third period.
The Coyotes started the period with 15 seconds left on the power play. A second after the end, Seattle’s Colin Blackwell fired a shot past Vejmelka a second after the power play ended.
This goal, assisted by Yanni Gourde, should have given the Kraken some momentum.
But Arizona responded quickly, when Anton Stralman scored at 1:52 of the period, assisted by Ryan Dzingel and Loui Eriksson.
“We gave one right away, and it resulted from a failed escape,” Hakstol said.
Seattle had plenty of time to mount another comeback and had help from a mid-period power play, but Arizona survived that. The Kraken kept up the pressure, and it paid off when Jarnkrok took a fine pass from Gourde to beat Vejmelka at 15:52.
The Kraken fired Grubauer with two minutes left and Arizona took the win with two empty-net goals, one by Galchenyuk and another by Schmaltz.
“A lot of guys were going in the right areas but unfortunately tonight we weren’t rewarded,” said Blackwell, who scored his fifth goal of the season. “I really think we need to do a better job of getting to those areas. Tonight we had a ton of shots, and if we can get more traffic past their goalie, some of those shots will bounce off us.
Still, Blackwell said there was some frustration “because we had so many Grade A chances and they weren’t coming in, and (Vejmelka) made a lot of great saves.”
Arizona lost the shots on goal stat, having 27, but the Coyotes won the one stat that really mattered.
Hakstol said after the game that he thought “the rust was showing” and that he thought his team was not sharp with or without the puck.
Still, Jarnkrok said the team was ready.
“We were ready to go,” Jarnkrok said. “We had a good practice yesterday so we were ready for sure.”