LAS VEGAS — Seattle Kraken players not yet born the last time the city they represent boasted a professional hockey team had taken the ice here Tuesday night to showbiz glitz and star-studded pageantry.
The pregame festivities preceding the franchise’s inaugural contest at T-Mobile Arena featured a hologram of a supposed giant Kraken curling its tentacles through cracked ice only to be slain by a lone Golden Knight costumed figure. By the time the electrified home crowd had settled down from that gimmickry, the actual game picked up where the preamble left off as the Kraken fell behind early, came all the way back but lost 4-3 to the Vegas Golden Knights on a controversial kick-in goal by Chandler Stephenson.
The disputed play at 8:33 of the third period was upheld upon video review even though Stephenson clearly redirected the puck in with his skate — which is allowed by NHL rules as long as a player doesn’t do it with a clear kicking motion.
The Kraken clearly didn’t agree, especially given the goal came just 35 seconds after Morgan Geekie had tied the score at 3 with a short-side wrist shot that beat Vegas goalie Robin Lehner from the right faceoff circle.
That goal brought his team back from a 3-0 deficit during a game in which it surrendered goals to Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Marchessault just 6:36 into the contest, then another by Pacioretty at 6:43 of the middle frame.
But the Kraken weren’t quite as done as their pregame look-alike.
Cheered on by pockets of vocal visiting fans sporting Kraken garb of all types, the upstart visitors saw a franchise-first goal by Ryan Donato on a goal mouth scramble midway through the second period followed just 1:12 later by a Jared McCann strike through traffic to cut the Vegas lead to just one.
In the final minute, with goalie Philipp Grubauer pulled for an extra attacker, the Kraken buzzed around the Vegas net but failed to convert close-in chances.
Still, on a night the Kraken also confronted the emotion of making history, their own finishing kick — though not as decisive as Stephenson’s — wasn’t the worst debut for a team that wants to be known as unrelenting.
This was the first pro game for a Seattle team since the Western Hockey League Totems closed up shop for good in 1975; at least one of its former players, 82-year-old Howie Hughes — author of a WHL championship clinching goal in 1967 — had flown here with his daughter for Tuesday’s game just like so many other Seattle-area residents.
The last Seattle major pro hockey team, the Metropolitans, last played a game in 1924 and won their lone 1917 Stanley Cup championship before anybody watching Tuesday could possibly have seen those games live. And that’s the ultimate pressure and responsibility the Kraken faced in this one: Knowing how long it’s been since the world’s highest-level hockey was represented in the Emerald City and wanting to do that honor justice.
They played like a team feeling some heat in the early going. Kraken goalie Grubauer overcommitted to his right on Pacioretty’s first goal and the veteran Vegas winger easily snapped the puck by his glove and into the largely vacated net.
The second goal came off a Vince Dunn turnover in his own end, with Marchessault later finding himself alone in front of Grubauer and undressing the goalie with some nifty deke moves.
But Grubauer made a key save off Nolan Patrick late in the period just moments after Brandon Tanev lost the puck on a clear-cut breakaway chance while killing a penalty.