Kraken shutout Penguins 2-0 behind 33 saves from Philipp Grubauer

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 29: Philipp Grubauer #31 of the Seattle Kraken makes a save against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at Climate Pledge Arena on February 29, 2024 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Im

Philipp Grubauer made 33 saves to earn his first regular season shutout since April 2022 in a 2-0 Seattle Kraken victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

Oliver Bjorkstrand and Alex Wennberg provided the goals for Seattle in another critical victory for a Kraken team clinging to the playoff chase.

"He kept us in the game. He made big saves in key moments and played a really good full 60," Bjorkstrand said. "So yeah, he's obviously a big part of this win."

Grubauer's last shutout came in a 29-save effort against the Chicago Blackhawks on April 7, 2022. It's his 21st career shutout. Grubauer has stopped 124 of 131 shots for a .947 save percentage in five games played since returning to action from an extended stay on the injured list.

"It's been a while for for myself but obviously it's more important to get those points than to get the shutout, but it's huge for the team too, because everybody plays their part and everybody does their part," Grubauer said.

The Kraken remain seven points back of the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. Both the Kings (5-1 at Vancouver) and Predators (6-1 vs. Minnesota) won on Thursday night as well.

Seattle is now in a three-way tie with the St. Louis Blues and Calgary Flames in the standings, with the Wild lagging just one point behind.

"We're fighting for every point here," Grubauer said. "That's not going to get easier from now on. Other teams are playing great too and we need those points to get into the playoffs."

The Kraken had to weather significant early pressure from Pittsburgh with Grubauer called upon to shine to keep the Penguins off the board. Pittsburgh had an 11-3 advantage in shots on net through the first 12 minutes, which included a couple particularly strong stops by Grubauer.

Eventually, Seattle managed to push back a bit with Bjorkstrand delivering the opening goal to blunt the Pittsburgh pressure. Will Borgen's shot from just inside the blue line hit Alex Wennberg in the shoulder and deflected high into the air. Bjorkstrand managed to swat the puck out of the year as it returned toward the ice directly through the legs of Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry to give Seattle a 1-0 lead.

"It definitely helps getting the lead," Bjorkstrand said. "You can take a little bit of a breath and feel like you're not chasing the game, but I thought we got better as the game (went on). We just kind of stayed calm. We didn't get frustrated and panic."

If the Penguins miss the playoffs, one of the biggest reasons will be an abysmal power play unit. Pittsburgh entered the night fourth-worst in the league at just 14.8 percent. The Penguins had converted on four of their last 11 power play chances during their three-game winning streak entering Thursday night. However, Seattle kept the unit off the board on a trip of power plays to help keep Pittsburgh off the board.

"I mean you look at their power play, [Sidney] Crosby, [Kris] Letang, [Erik] Karlsson on the blue line there, [Evgeni] Malkin, it doesn't matter if they're struggling," Grubauer said. "You give them time and space and they make things happen. So great job by our PK killing those off. Huge."

Malkin missed a chance to tie the game as his shot sailed wide of the net off a great pass from Karlsson with just under 10 minutes left to play. But the Kraken held the Penguins to just five shots on net in the third period as they limited their chances to rally.

Lars Ellen caught Jared McCann with a high-stick with just under six minutes left to play to give Seattle a power play chance to extend the lead. Jarry came up big with a denial of Wennberg on a chance from the side of the crease looking to keep the Penguins in it, but Wennberg would come through with the insurance goal later in the man advantage.

Vince Dunn and Eeli Tolvanen did a great job of keeping the puck in the offensive zone as the Penguins tried to clear. The puck came to Wennberg in the right circle and he drove the net front and put his own rebound through Jarry for a 2-0 lead with 4:58 left to play.

Rickard Rakell had a strong chance with just under four minutes left, and the Penguins pulled Jarry with 2:30 remaining for an extra attacker but were unable to beat Grubauer. A Malkin tripping penalty with 18 seconds left effectively ended the game for Seattle.

"It was just a commitment to a lot of the little things, the little details and the basics," head coach Dave Hakstol said.

The Predators have played two more games than Seattle, St. Louis and Calgary, which could effectively mean the gap between the teams is as little as three points if that two-game difference become wins for the chasing teams. The Kings are also adjusting to the loss of top winger Adrian Kempe and have been scuffling a bit recently. But with the trade deadline a week away, it's become crunch time for roster decisions to be made.

If the Kraken keep winning, they'll have a strong case to remain together to chase a playoff spot. Three games remain before the deadline against the Edmonton Oilers, Flames and Winnipeg Jets. Running the slate would be a big statement for committing to a run.


– Head coach Dave Hakstol coached the 500th game of his NHL career against the Penguins.

– Center Alex Wennberg reached 100 points for his career with the Kraken with a goal and an assist.

– Eeli Tolvanen's assist on Wennberg's goal gave him 32 points for the year, which is a new career-high.