The Seattle Kraken wrote history on Tuesday, playing their first game in franchise history and scoring their first goal on a thrilling night against the Golden Knights in Vegas. After falling down 3-0, the Kraken needed a spark to ignite what would become a valiant three-goal comeback. Just over the halfway mark of the second period, a wrist shot from Vince Dunn rebounded off Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner’s glove to the front of the net for Ryan Donato to bury a backhander for the first goal in Kraken history. Donato, who signed a one-year, league-minimum $750K contract with Seattle this offseason, is already proving his worth to the organization and will now have his name etched in Kraken history books forever.
Donato Sparks Three-Goal Comeback for the Kraken
It took a while for the Kraken to get going, but Donato’s goal evidently fired the team up and gave them a crucial momentum swing. Just 69 seconds after the Donato goal, Jared McCann, who managed to play despite being on COVID-19 protocols the day prior, found the back of the net through a crowd of Golden Knights after a nice passing play from Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle. After trailing by three goals, the Kraken were only down by one heading into the third period.
And then, almost eight minutes into the final period, the game took a major turn. As Jonathan Marchessault and the Golden Knights looked to enter the Kraken zone, the puck was turned over and pushed toward the Vegas end, where Morgan Geekie was perfectly positioned to pick it up for a one-on-one break against Zach Whitecloud. As Geekie reached the middle of the right circle, he unleashed a wicked wrist shot past Whitecloud and over the glove of Lehner to complete Seattle’s comeback and tie the game at 3-3.
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The Kraken need to establish themselves as a team who never gives up and fights till the final whistle, and they did just that on the back of Donato’s goal. Unfortunately for Seattle, they came up just short after a controversial goal off Chandler Stephenson’s foot less than a minute after the game-tying snipe. But all things considered, it was a strong night for an NHL team taking the ice for their first regular-season game ever.
Donato Has an Opportunity for Fresh Start in Seattle
Donato has played on four teams over the past five seasons, including the Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks and now, the Kraken. In 181 games, the 25-year-old has tallied a respectable 78 points (36 goals, 42 assists), showing he has promise despite struggling to find a long-term home in the NHL. He joins the Kraken after scoring 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 50 games with the Sharks last season.
Just one game into his Kraken tenure, he’s already made a huge name for himself in the city of Seattle. There are bound to be a few breakout players on the Kraken this season, and there seems to be a good chance Donato is among that group. It wouldn’t be the first time Donato shined for a team, after starring for Team USA with five goals in seven games at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. He also put together an illustrious NCAA Division I career with 104 points (60 goals, 44 assists) in 97 games with Harvard University.
“Ryan’s hockey sense and ability to contribute on the scoresheet are two ingredients we are excited to add to our forward group,” said Kraken general manager Ron Francis after Donato was signed last month. “We like his offensive potential and believe he can add scoring depth.”
The Kraken will face-off against the Nashville Predators on the road Thursday night at 5 p.m. PT. With the team still looking for its first win in franchise history, expect another strong effort from Donato as he looks to make more history with the NHL’s 32nd franchise.
Tom Pepper is an NHL columnist at The Hockey Writers.