Seattle, WA – With a chance to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a victory, the Seattle Kraken fell flat on their face in front of their raucous home crowd at Climate Pledge Arena. The Kraken failed to mitigate the intensity and aggression displayed by an Avalanche team with their season on the line and already down numerous starters due to various reasons, and Colorado pushed through. With their backs against the wall, the defending Stanley Cup Champions showed why they secured the Central division in the western conference and their loaded top line pushed the pace all night. Now, the fate of both teams’ seasons hangs in the balance of game seven on Sunday.
The Avalanche had to come out in this game swinging and bring the fight to the Kraken, and that they did. Seattle had been the better team early in nearly every game of this series, and Colorado knew that if they were to take game six on the road they’d need to get off to a good start. Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar decided to load his top line, placing Artturi Lehkonen, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen together to really put pressure on the Kraken. It appeared Colorado were going to find an early score to begin this game, as Bowen Byram used numerous Seattle skaters in front of Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer as screens to find the back of the net. Seattle’s head video analyst Tim Ohashi had the team challenge the goal for offsides and they won, taking the goal off the board, but the Avalanche were not deterred in their intensity.
After the Kraken seemed to respond with a goal that counted, putting the Avalanche in a deficit, Colorado roared back and struck in a crucial moment before the intermission. In the dying seconds of the first frame, the Avalanche built from their defensive zone with speed as Nathan MacKinnon facilitated a pass from a faceoff circle to teammate Devon Toews who was jumping into the play. Toews shot was stopped initially by Grubauer, but remained free as it bounced in front of the crease. No Seattle stick could clear the puck in time, allowing Colorado’s Evan Rodrigues to poke the loose puck over to teammate Mikko Rantanen for the easy tap in. Just like that, there was no lead heading into the first intermission, and the Avalanche had broken through.
“A lot of pace in the first period, back and forth, both ways up and down the rink. Second period, they tilted the game their direction in terms of they got on top of us with their forecheck, which it starts momentum, and we weren’t able to break that enough. So you start defending, you end up defending and end up in that period killing six minutes in penalties, and now you’re coming off of that and fighting for energy and fighting to turn around the momentum at the same time, we weren’t able to do that in that second period,” Dave Hakstol, Seattle Kraken head coach, on his assessment of the loss.
A big reason for the success of Seattle in this series against the defending Stanley Cup champions has been their quick starts and waves of pressure generated against Colorado. The Kraken were able to find a faint hint of that in this game, thanks to Vince Dunn’s one-timer goal to open the scoring in the first period. Just over a minute after the Avalanche “goal” by Bowen Byram was overturned, Seattle had a zone entry that saw rookie forward Tye Kartye send a puck towards Colorado goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. Georgiev made the right leg pad save, and teammate Erik Johnson attempted to clear the puck up the boards for a change. In the right place, at the right time, was Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn, who immediately took his shot and slammed a one-timer past Georgiev cleanly to open the scoring.
The vibes were good inside of Climate Pledge Arena following the Dunn goal, the 17,151+ fans waving their rally towels and erupting in immediate succession. It appeared that Seattle was again going to muster up that pressure that they had generated early in each game of the series to this point, but it turned out to be a blip on the greater scale of Colorado’s most complete game of the series. After a first frame that saw them register ten shots on goal, the Kraken were only able to muster four shots in five-on-five play in the final two periods. In total, Seattle registered 13, but both of those numbers are truly inexcusable when it comes to trying to close out a series against a team that’s down numerous notable players and when the chance to advance is in your home building.
“I thought we played a lot on our heels tonight. We expected them to give the game to us and didn’t really play with pressure. And obviously a good team like that or play with desperation, they’re going to come at you in waves. I think obviously that we were in the box a lot too. It gives their power play a lot of opportunity and that just creates momentum and then tires us out. So, I mean, accustomed to a lot of that stuff,” Jordan Eberle, Seattle Kraken forward and alternate captain, on what changed after his team scored first.
Tonight’s game six result sets up a winner take all game seven on Sunday, April 30th with a puck drop time of 6:30PM PST. Instead of handling business and advancing to the second round in their own building, the Kraken couldn’t put it together against this inspired Avalanche team and the series will meet its end in Colorado at Ball Arena. While Seattle has showed throughout the course of this series that they belong and that they’ve been the better team, the lack of effort and drive to close tonight’s game out raises the question if perhaps the experience of the Avalanche is pushing through. The Kraken will look to bounce back from this poor performance and make history in game seven this Sunday.