SEATTLE (AP) The Seattle Kraken clinched the first playoff berth in franchise history and set an NHL record for victories in an expansion team’s second season by beating the Arizona Coyotes 4-2 on Thursday night.
Jared McCann, Jordan Eberle, Matty Beniers and Vince Dunn scored for the Kraken, who earned their 44th win - the most by a second-year NHL team since the Original Six era, which ended in 1968. It’s a big turnaround for Seattle, which was 27-49-6 in its first season and finished last in the Pacific Division.
“It feels great,” Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said of his team’s playoff berth. “Day One, that’s where you want to work toward and be part of. The group in the room there earned it, they earned it from Day One.”
Philipp Grubauer had 27 saves for Seattle, which won its third straight game.
“We’ve got a special group here,” Eberle said. “From Day One, I think a lot of people have written us off. To get to this point is obviously an accomplishment, but I think this group feels we’re not done.”
Barrett Hayton and Laurent Dauphin scored for Arizona, which has dropped nine in a row. Karel Vejmelka stopped 29 shots.
“We made a step in the right direction today, and we want to finish strong,” coach André Tourigny said. “We have three games in front of our fans.”
McCann, who also had two assists, scored his team-high 38th goal at 19:36 in the first period to put the Kraken ahead. Dunn followed that up with a goal 28 seconds into the second period. Eberle sneaked one past Vejmelka at 5:52 to make it 3-0.
Hayton scored Arizona’s first goal at the 12-minute mark of the second, and Dauphin scored his goal at 19:21 in the third. Beniers made it 4-1 at 16:09 of the third period with his 23rd goal of the season.
Eberle had the second of his two assists on the goal, making it an eight-point night for the line of McCann, Beniers, and Eberle.
Beniers, a rookie, will be making his first playoff appearance, but doesn’t seem to be too nervous about what is sure to be an intense atmosphere.
“I know it’s going to be harder, faster, more physical,” Beniers said. “But I think we’ve got a team that plays the right way all the time. That’s how we got to this position. I think if we keep doing a lot more of the same, we’ll be just fine in the playoffs.”
Hakstol gave Seattle fans who have yet to experience playoff hockey an idea of what to expect.
“I can’t describe it, it’s a whole different level,” Hakstol said. “I noticed that our fans tonight were unbelievable once again. Right from the drop of the puck, you could feel that excitement, and you could feel some of the intensity as the game went on. They’ll know it when they walk in the building for that first game.
"They’ll feel it when the puck drops and then everybody will know what it feels like.”
NOTES: Eberle’s goal gave him scores in three straight games, his longest scoring streak since November 2021. ... Seattle’s win was its second home victory over the Coyotes in four days. The Kraken also defeated Arizona 8-1 on Monday. ... The Kraken and Coyotes will play again Monday in Arizona - their third meeting in the span of a week.
Coyotes: Host Anaheim on Saturday.
Kraken: Host Chicago on Saturday night.
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