February 22nd, 2024

Chris Driedger makes 37 saves in NHL return, Kraken hold off Flames 2-1

By Darren Haynes, The Canadian Press on December 27, 2023.

Calgary Flames' MacKenzie Weegar, right, battles with Seattle Kraken' Alex Wennberg during second period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal

CALGARY – Making his first NHL start in nearly 20 months, Chris Driedger was excellent on Wednesday night with 37 saves to backstop the Seattle Kraken to a 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames.

Kailer Yamamoto and Alex Wennberg, with the game-winner, scored for Seattle (13-14-9). The Kraken extended their points streak to seven games (5-0-2) and moved ahead of Calgary in the Pacific Division standings and the wild-card race.

Nazem Kadri scored for Calgary (14-16-5).

Driedger, 29, played three years of junior hockey for the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen.

He had lost all three of his NHL appearances against the Flames including both previous games in the Saddledome, where he surrendered a combined eight goals on 45 shots.

Driedger signed a three-year, US$10.5-million contract with Seattle as a free agent in July 2021, but his last NHL start was on May 1, 2022.

After the conclusion of his first season with the Kraken, the Winnipeg native tore his ACL while playing for Canada in the gold medal game of the 2022 world championships.

The resulting surgery sidelined Driedger most of last season before he returned to action in late February with Seattle’s American Hockey League affiliate in Coachella, where he played for the rest of the season.

He had been with Coachella all of this season until Dec. 10 when starter Philipp Grubauer’s injury led to his recall. After watching Joey Daccord start seven games in a row, Driedger got his chance and he responded with a sterling performance.

His biggest stop, keeping the game tied, came on a Flames two-man advantage in the second period when he went from post to post to rob Elias Lindholm at the side of the net after he had been set up for a one-timer by a cross-crease pass from Connor Zary.

At the other end, Jacob Markstrom made 19 saves to fall to 8-10-2.

Tied 1-1 in the third, the game-winner came off the stick of Alex Wennberg at 6:00 when he took a pass from Jared McCann and zipped a quick shot that beat Markstrom inside the post on the short-side.

It was all the support Driedger would need as he was perfect in a third period in which the visitors were outshot 18-8.

Seattle opened the scoring at 2:24 on its first shot of the game. Seconds after Walker Duehr broke in off the wing on a dangerous chance for the Flames, the Kraken transitioned the puck up ice with Vince Dunn springing Yamamoto on a breakaway. He beat Markstrom on his blocker side.

The Flames tied it six minutes later. Just seven seconds into their first power play of the night, Calgary took advantage of a turnover by Jamie Oleksiak in front of his net with the puck eventually being banged in by Kadri for his ninth goal.

For Calgary’s struggling power play that entered the game ranked 30th, that’s goals on the man advantage in three straight games after a 21-game stretch in which they only had man-advantage goals in three games.

POINT SKIDS

After being held off the scoresheet again, Jonathan Huberdeau has gone 12 games without a point. Dillon Dube is pointless in his last 15 games while Andrew Mangiapane has only mustered one goal in his last 17 games.

DUEHR RETURNS

Duehr drew back into the Flames line-up after sitting out the past nine games and 19 of the last 22. The right-winger played on the fourth line with A.J. Greer and Dube, who slid to centre with Adam Ruzicka a healthy scratch.

MILESTONE IRONMAN

Tonight was Seattle’s 200th regular season game in franchise history. Defenceman Adam Larsson is the only player to have played in every one. At 304 consecutive games, Larsson has the league’s fifth-longest active Iron Man streak.

UP NEXT

Kraken: Return home to play host to the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday.

Flames: Are off until Sunday when Calgary will meet Philadelphia.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2023.

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