For very different reasons, Thursday was an emotional night for both the Seattle Kraken and Columbus Blue Jackets.
The expansion Kraken earned their first victory in franchise history as Brandon Tanev scored twice in a 4-3 victory at Nashville.
The Blue Jackets honored late goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks, who died in a fireworks accident this summer, by raising his No. 80 to the rafters before their season opener, an 8-2 rout against Arizona.
The Kraken and Blue Jackets are scheduled to meet Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio.
Members of Kivlenieks’ family participated in the ceremonial puck drop, the Blue Jackets painted an 80 on the ice behind the net and starting goalie Elvis Merzlikins eschewed his normal jersey No. 90 to wear his late friend’s number.
Oliver Bjorkstrand had two goals and two assists, Max Domi added a goal and two assists and Merzlikins made 36 saves.
“It was tough. It was really tough. It’s tough now. … Even my wife before I left the house said ‘don’t (mess) it up,'” Merzlikins said of his number change. “It was a big, big responsibility. I didn’t want to embarrass the number.
“I’m going to be honest, I slept really bad (last) night because I was really nervous,” he added. “I knew I was going to be emotional. It was hard to focus. It was hard to dial in and be there in the moment, just at the blue line. When I saw the family coming out, I started crying. The guys, they knew how important this game was, and they worked their (tails) off.”
Alexandre Texier, Boone Jenner, Jake Bean, Zach Werenski and Gus Nyquist also scored for the Blue Jackets and Vladislav Gavrikov, Jakub Voracek and Jack Roslovic had two assists apiece.
The victory was the first for new Columbus coach Brad Larsen.
“I didn’t think we played that well, but we found ways to score,” Larsen said. “That’s good. We have such a better game in us.
“Elvis was really good for us (Thursday). It was a strange 8-2 game. I’m happy to get the win. There are a lot of positives. But we have a lot of work to do.”
The Kraken, who lost their opener 4-3 Tuesday in Las Vegas, turned around that score in Nashville.
Alex Wennberg and Jared McCann each had a goal and an assist for Seattle and goalie Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves — including 12 in the third period as the Kraken were outshot 13-1 while protecting a narrow lead.
“We really wanted this win,” Wennberg said. “And sometimes at the end, it isn’t always pretty, but we’ve got to play that way to win and (Thursday) we did whatever it takes.”
Added coach Dave Hakstol: “I think you saw a little bit of that stress in us in our play in the third period. Guys were calm and pretty focused. I know guys were really excited to be able to get the first win, especially as it sinks in. It’s the first win in franchise history, that’s a big deal for everybody.”
–Field Level Media