Crazy Eights: Squat down Blackhawks to complete record-breaking road trip sweep

CHICAGO – As the NHL’s newest franchise, the Kraken are used to making history just by existing. They graduated on Saturday night.

The Kraken became the first team in the NHL’s 105 seasons to win a road trip of seven or more games, seven-for-seven on a swing across Canada and the Northeast that ended Saturday night in Chicago with an 8-5 victory over the Blackhawks .

In fairness, Seattle Deputy Captain Jordan Eberle pointed out that it was an oddly long stretch from the Climate Pledge Arena.

“I can’t imagine many teams going on a seven-game road trip,” he said. “That in itself — I’m not sure I’ve had one in my career.”

Noted. Still, forward Jared McCann scored the first hat-trick of his eight-year NHL career and Seattle’s first of the season on Saturday night. The rest of the scoring offense was balanced as usual, with each forward registering at least a point.

The eight straight wins are a first for the fledgling franchise. That was six goals in the first period. The speed at which they were scored also topped the league records – only seven teams have done it faster to start a match, and the Kraken were just two minutes and 38 seconds off the lead. The Toronto Maple Leafs scored six times in 10:33 in 1946.

The Blackhawks had their fun. Then they got out of the way and let history happen.

Just under two minutes after Daniel Sprong put the Kraken ahead 1-0, defenseman Carson Soucy dove to stop a breakaway opportunity and missed, leaving goaltender Martin Jones one-on-one with Chicago’s Max Domi. Jones used Domi’s gloved shot. It was a temporary fix, as Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews stole one of Jamie Oleksiak’s stick on the next shift and put it in it.

The rest of the first period was like shooting a fish in a barrel. Kraken All-Star Matty Beniers kicked off a run of five consecutive goals in 3:41, on five shots on target. McCann scored two of his three giving him a team-high 22 on the season. Eeli Tolvanen scored his fifth goal in eight games since joining the Kraken.

Brandon Tanev was the only Seattle player to miss in the first 14 minutes and his shot nearly pierced Petr Mrazek’s pads. Mrazek was withdrawn after Andre Burakovsky made it 4-1. The shelling continued as Alex Stalock entered the Chicago net and immediately conceded a pair of goals 26 seconds apart.

The five goals in 3:41 are the 15th fastest five goals by a single team according to NHL Stats.

Seattle’s Adam Larsson had a game-high six hits and was an unlikely plus-7 on the night. Defensive partner Vince Dunn was right behind him on plus-6.

“You don’t see evenings like that often,” said Kraken coach Dave Hakstol. “Every time he and (Dunn) went over the boards in the first period, they were on the upside.”

The Blackhawks closed the deficit to three on a power play goal 51 seconds into the third period. The Kraken quickly put that idea to rest when McCann scored his third and floated a single hat to the Chicago ice, and teammate Oliver Bjorkstrand made it 8-3 just 43 seconds later. The Blackhawks followed two more in stoppage time.

McCann played with a new linemate in Ryan Donato (two assists), who slid into Jaden Schwartz’s spot. Schwartz missed the game for an unknown reason and Hakstol described him as an everyday player.

The first of McCann’s three goals was a two-on-one with Donato.

“He’s a big kid who can control the puck low down. He found me there by the slot and I was able to put it in,” McCann said of his second goal.

He didn’t go to the bench for fist punches afterward, instead opting for a hushed celebration for the teetering Blackhawks. Seattle’s victory streak may be long, but McCann remembers that feeling.

“It’s just out of respect for them,” McCann said. “Sometimes you have nights like that – we had a night like that against Edmonton (December 30, a 7-2 loss). It’s just something you do.”

Jones (22 saves) came off back-to-back shutouts, but that streak ended with Toews’ goal in the first period. Jones has had seven of eight wins in the Kraken net during this run. Seattle didn’t lose in 2023.

The Kraken (26-12-4) are one win away from tying last season’s win total in just over half time.

“We have made progress since last year. This group team is proud to play hard together,” Hakstol said. “They deserve the results they have achieved so far.

“More importantly, I believe we have the group there that can keep perspective and continue to strive for what the ultimate goal is in the regular season schedule – to be part of the playoffs.”

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