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Quick Bites: Seattle shakes down Sharks

Too many familiar faces in Seattle showed San Jose what they lost by letting them go.

Ryan Merkley #6 of the San Jose Sharks skates with the puck against Joonas Donskoi #72 of the Seattle Kraken during the third period at Climate Pledge Arena on January 20, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks made their way to the Climate Pledge arena to face the Seattle Kraken for their second time meeting and first time in the Kraken’s new digs. After Timo Meier’s historic game against the Los Angeles Kings, culminating in a 6-2 win, the Sharks were riding high entering the Pacific Northwest.

Lane Pederson and Joachim Blichfield were healthy scratches, while Adin Hill was back in net, giving James Reimer a day off. Rudolfs Balcers was out due to COVID Protocol, Adam Raska was in, as was Alex Barabanov, who exited Protocol ahead of the game.

The first five minutes of the game hearkened back to Monday’s landmark night. On the very first shift of the game, on the first shot and in just 38 seconds, Tomas Hertl scored off a beautiful heads-up play from Alex Barabanov.

Barabanov drew three Kraken players as he drove the puck toward the front of the net, then sent it right to Hertl, who posted up against the right side of the yawning cage once he saw what Barabanov was trying to do. It went in, effortless as anything, and I’m not saying I was expecting a first-period hat trick, but …

Yanni Gourde attempted a breakaway, but was stopped by Hill who looked sharp early, and it was clear that whatever Meier ate for breakfast last game he had brought to the rest of the team. The Sharks were on their toes early, driving pucks deep into the offensive zone and playing with plenty of speed, energy and physicality.

San Jose was doing a good job of maintaining clarity in their own zone and defending against Seattle’s rush chances. The Kraken are very good in the neutral zone, which made puck management and zone entries and exits even more important.

Philipp Grubauer was in net for the Kraken, and his record hasn’t been fantastic, which made leveling as many shots as possible at the net an important part of the Sharks’ play. With a weaker goaltender, you never know what might go in — or, in the Sharks’ case, what might not go in. Barabanov, then Marc-Edouard Vlasic and then Erik Karlsson all had high-quality chances that were stopped, either by Grubauer, or in Karlsson’s case, the post.

Karlsson was called for holding in the final ten minutes of the period, but the Sharks’ penalty kill was just as successful as it has been the entire season, and the Kraken were kept off the scoreboard.

The last five minutes of the period were spent mostly in the defensive zone, as the team defended a flurry of Kraken shots.

The second period started off with a few Kraken chances, but the puck soon went the other way. The Sharks were all about shooting fast and quick, and the top line of Hertl, Barabanov and Meier were at the epicenter of the Sharks’ offense.

The middle of the second period leaned toward Seattle, as the Sharks struggled to clear the puck (what else is new). While caught on their heels, Carson Soucy capitalized upon Hill’s blocked vision (Logan Couture was right in his eyesight), and put it in.

Not long afterward, Ryan Donato caught the Sharks out of position and put the puck in the back of the net, but the rush chance that led to the goal was successfully challenged for being offside, and the score was brought back to 1-1.

The successful challenge seemed to restore some hope, but Andrew Cogliano and Nick Bonino were crushed under the pressure of the Kraken and Carson Soucy very quickly renewed the lead for the Kraken, back to 2-1.

On the next face-off, Jeff Viel took a high-sticking call, which sent the Sharks back to the penalty kill. After a huge save by Hill on a shot from Gourde, Logan Couture took a hooking call, keeping the penalty kill going for an additional two minutes, including a few seconds of 5-on-3.

Vlasic and Noah Gregor nearly had a chance, but a spot of miscommunication let the shot fizzle out. Then, after a big hit from Raska, who was playing in his fourth NHL game, was pulled into a very mismatched fight with Mark Giordano. For reference, Raska is 18 years younger than Giordano.

After the tussle calmed down, Raska and Giordano were given off-setting five minutes for fighting, and Soucy had two minutes for cross-checking. The Sharks’ power play has struggled as of late, but has turned a corner in the past few games. Barabanov, Brent Burns and Hertl each had their chances, but were stymied by posts.

The third period began with the Kraken leading 2-1, due to Soucy’s first multi-goal game of his career, and with Raska and Giordano in the penalty box. Meier and Hertl instantly looked toward the Kraken net, but Meier’s shot went high.

Within the first three minutes, Soucy was called for a slash on Timo Meier, earning a skater-advantage. It was a huge opportunity to equalize the score to bring the game to overtime. The power play was unsuccessful, largely due to the Sharks’ hesitating on shots and a lack of communication.

The puck swung the other way, and Calle Jarnkrok took advantage of a gap in defensive coverage to sneak the puck into the back of the net, bringing the score up to 3-1 in favor of the Kraken, with a little over halfway to go in the period.

Raska drew a penalty, allowing another opportunity on the power play, which Meier and Hertl took full advantage of. Hertl recovered the puck, sent it to Meie, and the shooter did what he does best: sent it top-shelf to get the goal. With both Hertl and Meier having scored in this game, they’re tied for most goals on the team, each with 21.

Matt Nieto was caught by a high-stick, and all momentum was with the Sharks as they entered into another power play opportunity, which was stifled by the Kraken penalty kill. But the team had another chance to equalize the score when the Kraken were called for too many men, but it too was unsuccessful.

The final few minutes saw the Sharks doing their best to prevent any more goals, while also trying to get at least one goal to take the game to overtime. With just a minute and seven seconds left in regulation, the Sharks were sent to the power play again for one final chance to tie.

Unfortunately, the Sharks weren’t able to pull the game to overtime, and the Kraken took the 3-2 win.