The Kraken won a wildly fun game on Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils, and the star of the show was none other than rookie Matty Beniers. Head coach Dave Hakstol hasn’t shied away from giving Beniers top-6 minutes in his first taste of NHL action, and so far Beniers has been up for the challenge. The crowd at Climate Pledge Arena was electric for his home debut, and they were rewarded with a big win for the home team.
Beniers won the opening faceoff, and Jamie Oleksiak put up the first shot on goal of the game — and then things went bad for a while. The Devils took the game’s next five shots on net, but only needed two to open the scoring.
Jesper Bratt with his 70th point of the season! 1-0 Devils pic.twitter.com/k27CAE7NDc— Duck Duck Gusev (@DuckDuckGusev) April 17, 2022
Riley Sheahan got caught trying to change, and the Kraken lost Jesper Bratt on the rush. Bratt puts a perfect shot top shelf over the shoulder of Grubauer to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. New Jersey maintained pressure for much of the period, but the Kraken were able to get things turned around a bit thanks to a pretty goal from Will Borgen.
This was a heck of a set up from Karson Kuhlman and Victor Rask on the zone entry, especially that patience from Rask before making the pass. Borgen sent a casual 89 mph snap shot to the back of the net (per the ROOT Sports broadcast) which is quite impressive for a shot without a full wind up. One more fun fact about this goal: none of the three guys involved in scoring it were on the opening night roster for the Kraken, and Borgen was the only one even under contract for Seattle at that time.
The 1-1 tie wouldn’t hold for the rest of the period, sadly, as the Devils’ other Jesper — Boqvist, that is — notched his 8th of the year when the Kraken defenders lost him in the low slot, a very bad place to lose an opposing forward, I’m told. It was a fitting end in a lot of ways to a very forgettable period for Seattle.
The Kraken were gifted a power play early on in the second period, which helped them establish a bit more offensive pressure, but they weren’t able to tie it up early. The 10 minutes that followed were filled with the two teams trading rushes through the neutral zone that never amounted to any sustained offensive zone time for either team, until the Kraken took a couple of penalties at the halfway point. The holding call on Jamie Oleksiak was pretty weak, but then again the slashing call on Tomáš Tatar at the beginning of the frame was pretty weak too so we’ll call it a wash. The Kraken’s best penalty killer was arguably Philipp Grubauer, who made a huge save to keep this a one-goal game after the Devils’ third power play of the night.
That’s the type of save that’ll make people say “remember that one later if Seattle comes back in this one.” And wouldn’t you know it, Seattle came back in this one.
It started with the two most reliable names among Kraken forwards — Jared McCann and Yanni Gourde. McCann flipped the puck into the offensive zone, and Gourde came in hard on the forecheck to retrieve the puck along the boards. He managed to get it back to McCann, who slid it across the slot to a wide open Carson Soucy. And this year, in this situation, Carson Soucy doesn’t miss.
Unlike Seattle’s first goal, this one came courtesy of three names we expected to be key contributors this season. This game was a good mixed bag of classic and future Kraken.
Speaking of future Kraken:
MATTY BENIERS FIRST NHL GOAL!! pic.twitter.com/7PS1Lv6itG— ROOT SPORTS™ | NW (@ROOTSPORTS_NW) April 17, 2022
Matty Beniers gave the Kraken a 3-2 lead with a real hockey player’s goal. Right off the draw on the power play, Beniers heads to the net from up high and fights his way through Yegor Sharangovich to get to the loose puck and leaves no doubt about where that puck was ending up. The pure joy on his and his family’s faces was easily the emotional highlight of the night. Beniers talked about working to get bigger and stronger after he was drafted last summer, and he showed how that’s going with this one.
We had to put the Beniers home opener celebration on a brief delay in the third, because the Devils tied it up in the first five minutes. Damon Severson buried the tying goal after a stickless Alex Wennberg couldn’t quite get in the way of the pass across the slot. Wennberg had just given his stick to Soucy, whose stick broke earlier in the play. This was just a tough goal to swallow all around, but you know, these things happen.
The game got a bit chippy throughout the period. Both teams, despite being eliminated from playoff contention, really wanted to get the win in this one. But nobody would play the hero in regulation, and we were treated to some free bonus hockey on Matty Beniers night.
If the first 60 minutes weren’t enough to convince you that Beniers is a special player, the five minutes of overtime might just change your mind.
And just to add a bit of context here, Beniers was in the final 10 seconds of a 65 second shift here. After more than 60 minutes of hockey. Whether it’s the youthful energy of a 19-year old, or the adrenaline boost given thanks to a raucous home crowd, the jump in Beniers legs is something special to watch.
We heard so much about how great of a 200-ft player Beniers is — that his strong play in his own defensive zone is a huge part of why he’s such a highly touted prospect. But he stepped onto the ice on Saturday night in Seattle and showed that he’s got as much offensive skill as you could ask for from a 2nd-overall pick. He didn’t score on that play, but he did draw a penalty to give Seattle a 4-on-3 power play to close out the overtime period. In the waning seconds, he came so close to putting up a highlight reel goal to give Seattle the win.
Love the confidence pic.twitter.com/xyTPPUzbBu— Emerald City Hockey (@EmeraldCityHky) April 17, 2022
It might not have worked, but I for one love the confidence to try that move.
With no goals scored, we headed to the shootout. Beniers did get a chance in the shootout, going second for the Kraken, but he rang his shot off the post. Fortunately, Seattle already had a goal on the board thanks to this beauty of a dangle from Ryan Donato.
Grubauer made all three saves during the shootout, and the Kraken were able to bring home a win for the Seattle debut of Matty Beniers.
- Dave Hakstol said after the game that he had no clear plan to use Beniers in a shootout until the end of the overtime period on this very night, but his play throughout the game was enough to convince Hasktol to give him the chance.
“Coming out of the first 65 minutes, it felt like he earned that opportunity. We obviously haven’t had a whole lot of time to see him in shootouts, he hasn’t been in a shootout in the National Hockey League before, but I felt like he earned the opportunity to be a part of it.”
- Daniel Sprong created some chances of his own in this one, with a strong zone entry and partial breakaway in the third period — he just couldn’t quite get it to go home.
- Will Borgen likes to activate on the blue line and put the puck on net. Mark Giordano was always the most shot-happy defender on the Kraken roster, and it’s good to see some of that blue line offense coming back in a different face.
- Karson Kuhlman played hard all night and was rewarded with a couple shifts in the overtime period. He’s a player Dave Hakstol really seems to like, and I can certainly get behind that. He’s another new face to keep an eye on for next season.
- Lastly, one more look at our new king:
The Kraken next take the ice on Monday at 7pm PDT against the Ottawa Senators, once again in Climate Pledge Arena.