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3 takeaways from Knights’ win: Kraken downed after banner raised

Updated October 11, 2023 - 12:01 am

The night began with 22 gold-clad players wrapping their arms around one another, celebrating the symbol of their lives’ work being raised into the T-Mobile Arena rafters. It ended with that same group raising its sticks in salute to its fans as pink flamingos hit the ice around them.

The Golden Knights raised their Stanley Cup championship banner in front of an electric announced crowd of 18,724 on Tuesday night before taking down the Seattle Kraken 4-1 in their season opener.

In between, they served notice to the rest of the NHL. The Knights proved to be a problem for the league last season. They don’t intend to slow down in their seventh season just because they earned some silverware.

“I guess it’s a memory now, right?” captain Mark Stone said. “Just a great memory. Some of the funnest hockey we’ll ever play. But it gives us a sense of urgency, right? We want to be back there. We know it’s not going to be given to us. You’ve got to play 82 games to give yourself an opportunity to compete for the Stanley Cup. It started tonight. We wanted to get off on the right track and were able to do so.”

The game was a statement almost from the outset.

T-Mobile Arena was near capacity before warmups even began, with fans packed to welcome the reigning champions back to the ice. Just about every player shown on the rink’s jumbotron received a thunderous ovation from the Knights’ largest-ever regular-season crowd.

The banner-raising ceremony happened afterward, featuring a video, a victory lap with the Cup and ultimately a giant slot machine that spit out the tapestry. Coach Bruce Cassidy called it “frickin’ cool.”

Players gazed in awe as the arena blared The Killers’ “Shot at the Night,” and fans in the stands led a booming chorus of “Go Knights go.”

It was a hard scene to follow. And the Knights still looked caught up in it when the game began. Seattle fired the first five shots on goal.

The Knights settled down off a play from Stone. He fed left wing Brett Howden, who threaded an amazing pass to center Chandler Stephenson off the rush for the team’s first goal on its first shot 7:16 into the game.

Right wing Jonathan Marchessault added to the Knights’ lead with 5:03 left in the first, and left wing Ivan Barbashev made it 3-0 at 1:20 of the second.

Left wing Jared McCann got Seattle on the board 8:19 into the second, but there was never any doubt about who the night belonged to.

Center Jack Eichel capped the win with an empty-net goal with 1:15 remaining.

The Knights, who improved to 8-1 all time against the Kraken, honored achieving their ultimate goal with the kind of creative flourish only they could imagine. Then, they fired a warning shot to let the NHL know they intend to do the same thing one season later.

“I guess the pressure of winning is not as much since we have won, but it’s a different kind of feel because it was so fun and so worth it to go through all those four rounds and battle,” center William Karlsson said. “It was just so worth it, so I don’t think it’s hard for us to be motivated to try to do it again.”

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. Hill stays cool

Goaltender Adin Hill cut a relaxed figure despite the chaos unfolding around him in the first period.

The 27-year-old always has been able to project a calm demeanor on the ice, frequently leaning back on his net and kicking his skates in the air. That didn’t change when the Kraken controlled the game early. It also didn’t change when Seattle had a chance to get back into the game late.

Hill stopped five shots during the Kraken’s early barrage to give his team time to settle down. He also made 10 saves on the penalty kill to help the Knights finish 4-for-4, including six stops after left wing Brett Howden received a five-minute match penalty for a check to the head on right wing Brandon Tanev 6:02 into the third.

One of Seattle’s 33 shots found their way past Hill. That made him a winner in the second opening-night start of his career.

“We needed to get our legs under us those first few minutes, and as Hilly does, he made a couple big saves and allowed us to get our feet,” Eichel said.

2. Marchessault makes his mark

The Knights’ Conn Smythe winner got the crowd to chant “MVP” before the first period was out.

Marchessault opened his account this season with a savvy play in the offensive zone. He pressured Tanev, who was trying to find somewhere safe to go with the puck, and then deflected Tanev’s pass past goaltender Philipp Grubauer for his first goal.

It marked Marchessault’s fourth straight season opener with a goal for the Knights. He’s scored in five of the seven in franchise history. He also has seven goals in nine games against the Kraken.

3. Carrier exits early

One difficulty the Knights are facing fast in their title defense is injuries.

They began the season without defensemen Alec Martinez and Zach Whitecloud, who are on injured reserve with lower-body injuries. The team then lost left wing William Carrier in the second period.

Carrier left the ice 7:09 into the period with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. He was a key part of the Knights’ depth scoring last season, scoring 16 goals in 56 games.

Cassidy said Carrier would be evaluated either late Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

“Hopefully it’s nothing long term,” Cassidy said. “Hate to lose guys this early.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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