The Seattle Kraken won’t make the NHL playoffs in their inaugural season, but they might play a factor in who does.
After being swept in back-to-back games at home by the Vegas Golden Knights, the Kraken will host the Dallas Stars on Sunday.
The Golden Knights and Stars have been going back and forth in recent days in their battle for the Western Conference’s final wild-card berth.
This will be the first of two meetings between the Stars and Kraken, who are also scheduled to meet April 23 in Dallas. The Golden Knights swept their four-game season series with Seattle.
The Stars (39-25-3, 81 points) moved a point ahead of idle Vegas on Saturday with a 5-4 victory at San Jose. Dallas has three games in hand on the Golden Knights, having played 67 to Vegas’ 70.
The Stars scored four first-period goals Saturday, then hung on late. Joe Pavelski, Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz each had a goal and an assist, and Tyler Seguin added three helpers. Goaltender Scott Wedgewood, a trade-deadline acquisition, made 24 saves.
“I think we’re playing well right now,” Hintz said. “Good teams find a way when you have to. I think we just have to keep building and keep playing better each game.”
The Stars have won the first three games on their four-game trip that concludes Sunday. They’re 5-1-0 in their past six games to pull within a point of wild-card leader Nashville.
“It’s a big trip for us right now,” said the Stars’ Jani Hakanpaa, who also scored Saturday. “If we can go home with four wins, it would be huge.”
Stars defenseman Esa Lindell missed his second straight game Saturday with an upper-body injury.
“There would be a chance he could play (in Seattle), but without skating (Saturday) or the last couple of days, that would be iffy as well,” Dallas coach Rick Bowness said.
The Kraken (21-41-6, 48 points) lost 3-0 to Vegas on Wednesday, then fell behind by that same score midway through Friday’s rematch.
At that point, Jared McCann, the Kraken’s co-leading scorer with Yanni Gourde, dropped the gloves.
“Frustration,” said McCann, when asked what led him to fight. “I’m obviously not very good at it.”
Still, the willingness to do whatever it takes resonated with his teammates, who scored two third-period goals but also gave up two in the period in a 5-2 defeat.
“To see a guy like ‘Canner’ do that, he has such a great heart,” said rookie forward Kole Lind, who scored his first NHL goal. “I can watch and learn from him.”
Alex Wennberg also scored for the Kraken, after a drop pass from McCann.
“Guys competed hard throughout the hockey game,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said. “I thought it was important to get that push in the third.”
Despite already being eliminated from playoff contention, McCann vowed the Kraken would keep playing hard.
“It’s cliche,” McCann said. “We just have to stay positive. It’s been a tough year, we have to grind it out and play for each other.”
–Field Level Media