Yanni Gourde didn’t care all that much that the Seattle Kraken are on the verge of NHL history.
With a victory Thursday night in the opener of a two-game series against the host Nashville Predators, the Kraken would have the greatest second-season turnaround by an expansion franchise.
“I care about getting in the playoffs and getting in a place where we have a good game,” Gourde said. “We want to go in the playoffs playing well.”
Seattle (39-24-7, 85 points) finished 27-49-6 for 60 points in its inaugural campaign. The record for biggest second-year turnaround is shared by the 1925-26 Boston Bruins and 1973-74 New York Islanders, who both made a 26-point improvement.
Kraken coach Dave Hakstol also downplayed the record.
“The most important thing that we’re concentrating on right now is the stretch run here and a playoff run,” Hakstol said. “And the most important thing that you can do there is stay even-keeled. Stay loose, stay positive. Again, whether you’re coming off a good win or a tough loss, you have to be able to reset and turn the page quickly. And our group has been able to do that all year.”
The Kraken did just that Tuesday night in a 5-4 overtime victory at Dallas. Seattle led 4-2 with less than 3 1/2 minutes remaining in regulation, only to see the Stars tie it with 0.7 seconds remaining. Dallas also had a goal disallowed because of goaltender interference.
Kraken defenseman Adam Larsson netted the overtime winner on a breakaway.
“It was a great team win,” Larsson said. “Even till (the end) I thought we believed. We got a goal called back. There’s no panic either way, and then they came back obviously scored with 0.7 seconds left or whatever it was, that’s a tough break. But we still believed till the end.”
Brandon Tanev had two goals and an assist for Seattle, with Daniel Sprong and Jared McCann adding one of each. Goaltender Joey Daccord, making his first NHL appearance since Nov. 1 after being recalled from the AHL on an emergency basis to fill in for the ailing Philipp Grubauer, made 25 saves.
“It was a pretty crazy 24 hours,” Daccord said. “It didn’t really give me time to think. Just get in there and do it.”
The Kraken currently lead the Western Conference’s wild-card race.
But the team they’re likely most concerned about in their bid for their first playoff berth is the Predators (35-26-8, 78 points).
That’s because Nashville has a game in hand on the Kraken, while Winnipeg and Calgary have both played two more games than Seattle.
The Predators are coming off a 7-3 victory Tuesday at Buffalo, as rookie Luke Evangelista had two goals and two assists and goalie Juuse Saros stopped 28 shots.
The injury-depleted Predators rebounded from a 7-0 loss Sunday to the host New York Rangers despite being without veterans Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Roman Josi.
“Pretty skinny roster, but we’ve got a lot of young guys that have come up and played really well,” said Matt Duchene, who scored twice and added an assist. “It shows a lot of character from our older guys all the way down to the youngest guy on the team.”
Defenseman Ryan McDonagh added a goal and an assist in his return after missing four games with an upper-body injury.
“You’ve got to move on quick,” McDonagh said of putting the loss in New York behind them. “Obviously you’re not going to play perfect every night and we felt it wasn’t a lack of effort or even execution. And I think we proved that (Tuesday). Our offensive chances came off good defensive plays.”
–Field Level Media