DENVER (AP) — The Seattle Kraken converged from all points on the ice to the same spot — Philipp Grubauer’s net.
A fitting gathering place to celebrate another first for this young franchise.
Grubauer was stellar in stopping 33 shots, Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice and the Kraken eliminated the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche with a 2-1 win in Game 7 on Sunday night.
The Kraken became the first expansion team to beat the reigning Stanley Cup champs in their inaugural playoff series, according to NHL Stats.
“A great accomplishment,” said Kraken forward Yanni Gourde, who had two assists. “Our fans have been amazing. They deserve this.”
Bjorkstrand scored one goal on a fortuitous deflection — the puck hit off a stick and glove — and another with a liner past goaltender Alexandar Georgiev that clanged off the post. Seattle grabbed the lead in every game in the series.
Next up for the second-year Kraken is a second-round series against the Stars that opens in Dallas on Tuesday night. Seattle was 1-1-1 against Dallas during the regular season.
The Kraken take a heap of momentum with them, too.
“It gives them that check mark of success,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said.
Mikko Rantanen was credited with a power-play goal for Colorado after a shot by Nathan MacKinnon clipped him and went in. MacKinnon appeared to score early in the third period to tie it at 2-2, but Seattle challenged the play and the goal was disallowed after video review due to Colorado being offside.
Seattle’s video crew turned in an MVP-calibre performance all series.
The Avalanche pulled Georgiev with under two minutes remaining but couldn’t get the equalizer. It allowed the Kraken to accomplish another franchise first — a series-clinching celebration.
“Lots more to come from our group,” Grubauer said. “That was only series one.”
Colorado has now lost its last six Game 7s. The last time the Avalanche won a winner-take-all Game 7 was 2002, when they beat San Jose 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Hall of Fame forward Peter Forsberg.
Both teams lost players for the series due to hard hits. Jared McCann didn’t play again after taking a hit from Cale Makar along the boards in Game 4, which drew a one-game suspension (Game 5) for the Avalanche defenceman. Colorado was without Andrew Cogliano for Game 7 after he suffered a fracture in his neck following a hit along the boards from Kraken forward Jordan Eberle, who didn’t face supplemental discipline.
MacKinnon energized the crowd with what looked like a tying goal. But it was taken off the board following a challenge as Artturi Lehkonen was ruled in the zone before the puck entered.
It’s the second time this series the Kraken have used a challenge to negate an Avalanche score.
The Kraken also deflated the capacity crowd by doing what they’ve done in every game this series — score first.
“This is a really good hockey team,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said of the Kraken. “The one thing they were that we weren’t in the series was consistent.”
Held without a goal all series coming in, Bjorkstrand was credited with a goal in the second period that glanced the stick of Alex Newhook and then off the glove of Ben Meyers and into the goal. Bjorkstrand scored again nearly four minutes later on a breakaway down the side to make it 2-0.
Bjorkstrand nearly had a hat trick but his shot late in the game hit the post.
“I didn’t want to go out and not being able to sleep at night because I didn’t perform well,” Bjorkstrand explained. “Some nights you just kind of feel the puck better and I feel like this is just one of those nights.”
With 27.3 seconds left in the second period, MacKinnon lined a shot that glanced off Rantanen and went by Grubauer. MacKinnon’s assist on the play was his 100th career playoff point. He joins the company of Joe Sakic (188) and Forsberg (159) as the only Avalanche players to reach the 100-point milestone in the post-season.
Georgiev finished with 25 saves.
Grubauer was sensational in the first period against his former team. He stopped 16 shots to set the tone for the evening.
The banged-up Avalanche were missing forwards Darren Helm (upper body), Cogliano and Valeri Nichushkin (personal reasons), along with defenceman Josh Manson (lower body) in Game 7.
They’ve been without captain Gabriel Landeskog all season after he underwent knee surgery in October.
“Tough year overall,” MacKinnon said. “Obviously, during the season, we’re going to say all of the right things, but it’s hard missing the guys. … We played a really great game, just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
AROUND THE ICE
Kraken forward Tye Kartye turned 22 on Sunday. … Colorado finished 2-for-18 on the power play in the series.
AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Pat Graham, The Associated Press