Crazy Eights: Kraken down Blackhawks to finish record-setting road trip sweep

CHICAGO — As the NHL’s newest franchise, the Kraken are used to making history by just existing. On Saturday night, they graduated.

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

In absolute fairness, Seattle alternate captain Jordan Eberle pointed out, it was a weirdly long stretch away from Climate Pledge Arena.

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

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

The eight consecutive victories overall are a first for the young franchise. Six first-period goals were too. The speed with which they were scored was up there in the league records as well — only seven teams have done it faster to start a game, and the Kraken were only two minutes, 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 gave the Kraken a 1-0 lead, defenseman Carson Soucy dived to stop a breakaway chance and missed, leaving goaltender Martin Jones one-on-one with Chicago’s Max Domi. Jones gloved Domi’s shot. It was a temporary solution as Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews nicked one off Jamie Oleksiak’s stick and in during the next shift.

The rest of the first period was like shooting fish in a barrel. Kraken All-Star Matty Beniers kicked off a run of five consecutive goals in 3:41, on five shots on goal. McCann scored two of his three, giving him a team-high 22 on the season. Eeli Tolvanen collected 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 he nearly poked home his shot through Petr Mrazek’s pads. Mrazek was pulled after Andre Burakovsky made it 4-1. The shelling continued when Alex Stalock entered the Chicago net and immediately allowed a pair of goals 26 seconds apart.

The five goals in 3:41 ranks as the 15th fastest five goals by one team, according to NHL Stats.

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

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

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 as McCann scored his third, sending a single hat floating to the Chicago ice, and teammate Oliver Bjorkstrand made it 8-3 just 43 seconds later. The Blackhawks tackled on two more in garbage time.

McCann was playing with a new linemate in Ryan Donato (two assists), who slid into Jaden Schwartz’s spot. Schwartz missed the game due to an undisclosed reason and Hakstol described him as day-to-day.

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

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

He didn’t head to the bench after that one for fist bumps, choosing a muted celebration in front of the reeling Blackhawks. Seattle’s win streak might be stretching on, but McCann remembers that feeling.

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

Jones (22 saves) was coming off back-to-back shutouts, but that streak ended with Toews’ first-period goal. Jones has been in the Kraken net for seven of eight victories during this run. Seattle hasn’t lost in 2023.

The Kraken (26-12-4) are one victory away from matching the win total from last season in a little more than half the time.

“We’ve made progress since last year. This group team takes pride in playing hard together,” Hakstol said. “They deserve the results that they’ve gotten to this point.

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

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