I have arrived.
Playing in front of his family and a fanbase buzzing with anticipation and excitement for what the future can hold for the NHL’s newest franchise, matty beniers did not disappoint in his first game at Climate Pledge Arena.
Beniers slammed home his first career goal, sending the crowd into a frenzy and putting Seattle ahead 3-2 in regulation before Ryan Donato and Philipp Grubauer secured a 4-3 shootout victory.
Video: NJD@SEA: Donato makes slick move to net SO winner
Beniers’ home debut was memorable from the opening faceoff, which he won. In his first shift, he blocked a shot that left him hobbled and threatened to spoil his night. He would return, though, and in glorious fashion.
The 19-year-old’s first goal came on the power play. After a faceoff win, Vince Dunn unleashed a shot that found a piece of Jared McCann‘s stick. The puck deflected off the post and found Beniers, who fought his way to the front of the net and buried it for the 3-2 lead in the second period.
“Kinda lucky goal for me,” he said after the game with a laugh. “You don’t get many of those where they pop out and sit in the crease and you get to just bat them in. It was a great feeling, I just kind of jumped into Canner’s arms after that.”
Video: NJD@SEA: Beniers scores PPG for 1st career NHL goal
A key piece to the Kraken’s future, the first draft pick in team history continues to make an immediate impact. Beniers scored his first goal in his second game after earning his first point in his debut in Calgary on Tuesday.
Coach Dave Hakstol has wasted no time putting Beniers in the game’s most crucial situations, a spot Beniers appears to crave.
“I’ve found myself to really feel comfortable in those moments. I don’t really know what it is, but over the years I’ve felt really comfortable when the game is on the line,” Beniers said post-game.
“I’m most impressed with the solid areas of his game. He supports the puck in all three zones very well,” Hakstol said. “Most importantly as a centerman, he does a very good job in the defensive zone, being in the right spots, being responsible with the puck and being able to receive a puck and make the next play. Those are the things I’m most impressed with in his game.The creativity is there, and as his confidence grows, we’ll continue to see more and more of that offensive creativity.”
In addition to his time on the power play, Beniers played nearly three minutes in overtime and was the second shooter in the shootout. I have ranged his attempt off the post.
“Coming out of the 65 minutes, I felt like I’ve earned that opportunity,” Hakstol said of picking Beniers for his first NHL shootout.
The game headed to overtime after Damon Severson scored in the third period to tie the game 3-3. Donato scored with a smooth deke in the first round of the shootout and Grubauer denied all three New Jersey shooters. Grubauer had 23 saves in the game, including a huge sliding stop on Pavel Zacha to keep it a one-goal game in the second period.
“I’ve played a real solid game all the way through,” Hakstol said of his goaltender.
Video: NJD@SEA: Grubauer robs Zacha with a nice kick save
New Jersey took control early when Jesper Bratt ripped a shot past goalie Grubauer for a 1-0 lead 3:12 into the game. The goal continues a career year for Bratt, who has 25 goals and 70 points, which are double his previous career highs.
The Kraken responded with a slick play from Victor Rask to Will Borgen. Rask bought some time net-front before sending the puck back toward Borgen, who was gliding into the play from the blue line. Borgen slapped a one-timer that beat Devils goalie Nico Daws stick-side a little more than halfway through the first period. Karson Kuhlmann earned a secondary assist on the play and now has points in three consecutive home games.
Video: NJD@SEA: Borgen blasts in one-timer from the circle
Borgen continues to be a positive offensive presence on the backend for the Kraken in recent games. Going into Saturday’s game, the Kraken outshot their opponents 60-46 and outscored them 6-1 when Borgen was on the ice during 5-on-5 play in a stretch of games since March 26 against the Kings, according to Natural Stat Trick. Borgen has picked up four of his six points this season since that game in Los Angeles.
The Kraken defense again activated offensively when McCann found carson soucy in open ice late in the second period. Devils defenders appeared to lose track of Soucy, who snuck in and slipped a shot stick-side, similar to the Borgen goal. The Soucy goal tied the game 2-2 after Jesper Boqvist scored the Devils’ second goal late in the first period. Soucy now has 10 goals on the season, more than he has scored in his tenure with the Minnesota Wild.
Video: NJD@SEA: Soucy wrists one in from the hash marks
The Kraken host the Senators on Monday in the second game of a three-game homestand.