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Close Call: Vegas Edges Seattle Kraken By A ‘Foot’ In New NHL Team’s First Game

It’s a game of inches and a game of feet, or, if you will in this case, a foot.

Thanks to Chandler Stephenson’s goal by way of his foot, the Vegas Golden Knights tipped the Seattle Kraken 4-3 on Tuesday night. It was the Kraken’s long-awaited debut in a regular-season NHL game played at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena.

On a pass from Mark Stone, Stephenson changed the angle of his foot to direct the puck past Seattle goalie Philipp Grubauer with 11:27 left in the game to break a 3-3 tie.

The officials reviewed the play and counted the goal good. By rule, a goal can be scored off a foot as long as there is no kicking motion.

Kraken coach Dave Hakstol thought he saw a kicking motion.

“You guys can make your own decision,” he said in his postgame conference. “I know what I saw. I thought it was a kicking motion. There is gray area in terms of those calls. Their decision was a good call, so … .”

     The puck went off the skate of Chandler Stephenson and into the net for the winning goal.

After a few strong first shifts to start the game, Seattle got caught out of its groove and got caught out of position and Vegas began to take advantage of Kraken mistakes. That added up, eventually, to a 3-0 Golden Knights lead by the middle of the second period.

“There were a lot of ups and downs,” Hakstol said. “We made mistakes that cost us, but we also did a lot of really good things. Getting down 3-0 in this building and being able to push back and get it back to even says a lot about our group believing in making plays, but it’s disappointing to not come away with the two points.”

Being Out Of Position Burns Seattle Twice

For a time, it looked really bleak with that three-goal deficit.

Earlier, Vegas’ Max Pacioretty buried a high wrist shot to the far post past Grubauer for 1-0 lead just 3:10 in. On that play, the Golden Knights took advantage of a weak Seattle neutral zone. After Shea Theodore’s breakout pass, it was bang-bang-bang, from Stephenson to Stone and on to Pacioretty.

A Vince Dunn turnover led to Vegas’ second goal a little more than three minutes later. William Karlsson made the theft and fed a wide-open Jonathan Marchessault, who faked around to Grubauer’s left and snuck the puck in on the ice surface for a 2-0 edge. At this point, Seattle had been outshooting the Knights 8-3.

On that play, Seattle defenseman Jeremy Lauzon was alone in front and attempted to get to Karlsson before he could pass it, but he was too late.

Late in the first period, the Kraken’s Brandon Tanev looked like he was going to cut the lead in half on a breakaway after a feed from Jaden Schwartz. Tanev deked left on Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner, but the puck bounced off Tanev’s stick before he could deposit it in the goal.

Extended Knights Pressure Yields A Goal, But Also Sets the Stage For Seattle’s Comeback

Two Golden Knights power plays early in the second period did not lead to a goal, but moments later, Vegas intercepted a stretch pass by Seattle captain and defenseman Mark Giordano and made the Kraken pay.

This time, Stone fed Nicolas Hague with a beautiful East-West pass and Hague placed a high shot toward the far post that Pacioretty tipped in for his second goal of the night to make it 3-0.

But back came Seattle almost immediately.

At 11:35 of the second period, Ryan Donato won a physical battle with Knights defenseman Alec Martinez (the same guy who scored the Stanley Cup game-winning goal for the Los Angeles Kings in 2014) and pushed a rebound of a Dunn shot past Lehner for Seattle’s historic first NHL goal.

The Kraken’s Ryan Donato pushes the puck past the Golden Knights’ Robin Lehrner for Seattle’s first goal in history.

A little more than a minute later, breaking into the Vegas zone, Schwartz found Jordan Eberle, who passed to Jared McCann, who threw a backhander toward Lehner that eventually rolled in.

The huge momentum the Knights had was now gone.

At 7:58 into the third period, Seattle’s Morgan Geekie tied it up 3-3 with a wicked writer from outside the right dot after a steal and feed from Lauzon.

Seattle’s Morgan Geekie after scoring his first goal of the season.

Another Intercepted Stretch Pass Leads To Winning Goal

Much like it had done on its third goal, the Golden Knights intercepted a stretch pass, this time by Kraken defenseman Adam Larsson, leading to the rush that ended in Stephenson’s winning goal.

“We’ll take the good things that we did and build off of that and try to fix one or two things,” Hakstol said. “We’re not going to do more than that with a short practice (Wednesday) and we get on the plane to fly to Nashville and get ready for Game 2 (on Thursday against the Predators).

Four Of Five On COVID-19 Protocol Were Cleared To Play

Calle Jarnkrok was the only one of five Seattle players on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list on Monday who didn’t play on Tuesday.

The four others, McCann, Marcus Johansson, Joonas Donskoi and Jamie Oleksiak, were in uniform and got lots of minutes. They were tested and cleared and flew to Las Vegas in the afternoon. Apparently, none of the four had COVID-19, but were in close contact with someone who had. That may or may not have been Jarnkrok, who is believed to have contracted the virus.

Opening Night Lines And Defensive Pairings

The regular lineup most of the night was:

First line
LW Jaden Schwartz, C Jared McCann, RW Jordan Eberle

Second line
LW Marcus Johansson, C Alex Wennberg, RW Joonas Donskoi

Third line
LW Ryan Donato, C Morgan Geekie, RW Mason Appleton

Fourth line
LW Brandon Tanev, C Riley Sheahan, RW Nathan Bastian

Defensive parings
>> Mark Giordano and Haydn Fleury
>> Jamie Oleksiak and Adam Larsson
>> Vince Dunn and Jeremy Lauzon

Near the end of the game, Tanev was skating with the third line and Donato with the fourth.

Some Stats

Seattle outshot (31-30) and outhit (30-26) Vegas.

Some telling numbers were the Kraken’ssgiveaways (7) and the Golden Knights’ takeaways (10).

Throughout the night, Vegas made it very difficult for Seattle to find space in its offensive zone, and they Knights also blocked 19 shots.

ALSO AT Bedrock Sports: The Seattle Kraken’s Brandon Tanev Works Like A Dog And Is Quickly Becoming A Fan Favorite



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