Kraken come up empty, injured in loss to Islanders

ELMONT, New York – About five minutes into Tuesday night’s second period, it was clear this wasn’t going to be the launchpad toward a playoff berth the Kraken were hoping.

They were already down four goals by that point, top point-getter Andre Burakovsky had limped gingerly off the ice the prior period and the only skating they were doing was around in circles in their own zone. In other words, the Kraken got plenty of forewarning in this 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders about the challenges looming both near and long term.

“I think it’s pretty evident that our play, our structure and our energy was just a little bit low,” said Jaden Schwartz, one of a handful of Kraken forwards, including Burakovsky, returning from multi-game absences in tis one. “We were just a little bit off today. A little bit tired. I guess everyone had some long travel back to Seattle and then some long travel to get here.”

For the Islanders, winners of four straight and seemingly energized by the trade for and long-term signing of star centerman Bo Horvat, finding energy in front of the UBS Arena home crowd wasn’t an issue. Ilya Sorokin stopped all 31 shots he faced for the shutout.

The Kraken’s loss of Burakovsky, who did not return after his leg seemed to buckle as he attempted a first period zone entry, is obviously of concern. Kraken coach Dave Hakstol had no immediate postgame update but said he might provide one if the team practices on Wednesday.

The Kraken had seen offensive production slow considerably in the two weeks preceding the All-Star break, which coincided with a different Burakovsky injury suffered when he appeared to take a hand slash during a practice.

While he returned to score an overtime winner over the New Jersey Devils, he missed the three games after that.

And though the offense showed initial early spurts in this one, with Schwartz and Matty Beniers both back from injury and contributing to chances, they couldn’t finish those opportunities before the Islanders pulled away.

‘Like I said, our game looked just a little bit off,” Schwartz said. “I thought our passes, our reads and just everything looked…not as aggressive as we usually are, not as tight as we usually are. And we all know that.”

Samuel Bolduc opened the scoring just under eight minutes in, putting a puck through a screen and between the legs of goaltender Martin Jones for the first goal of his career. Then, with just 1:31 to play before intermission, the Kraken got caught scrambling in their own end and Jones never saw Simon Holmstrom take a centering pass and put the puck behind him before he could figure out who had it. 

Things quickly went from bad to worse in the second period as Jean Gabriel Pageau swiped at a loose puck and Zach Parise redirected it by Jones just 3:38 in. And then, just 90 seconds after that, it would be onetime Seattle Thunderbirds captain Mat Barzal throwing a pass across to Horvat for a one-timed, first goal for his new team.

That was effectively the game despite the Kraken showing a late-second period burst on a power-play chance, only to be stonewalled by Sorokin. 

“It wasn’t there,” Kraken forward Ryan Donato, bumped to top-line duty in Burakovsky’s absence, said of the team’s energy level. “I think maybe at the very beginning we had the jump. I don’t want to make any excuses but I think we were maybe half a step off after the first eight minutes of the game.”

Donato agreed the inability to capitalize early proved costly. Jones made some big stops early, but was getting overwhelmed by period’s end.

“It definitely hurts your momentum,” Donato said of the late-period swing that put New York ahead by two. “But Jones has bailed us out so many times in that same circumstance where we start creating and we wind up getting that goal.”

The Kraken know they’ve got some tough work ahead on this trip, facing the tough Devils and then the New York Rangers — both among the league’s better, apparently playoff-bound teams — before heading to Philadelphia and then Winnipeg, Manitoba, to face a surprisingly strong Jets squad. Playing the Islanders, who were coming off a win the prior night, was supposed to be the game that might help them get this part of their season off to a flying start.

But instead, it was largely more of the same, disjointed play they’d shown right before the break. 

“We really didn’t have anything,” Hakstol said. “We didn’t sustain any tempo to our game.”

Hakstol said his team’s inability to track the puck in their own zone and gave too much time and space for the Islanders to get creative.

“We looked like we had the effects of coming off a break,” he said. “We could not find a way to give ourselves energy.”

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