Joey Daccord leads Seattle Kraken to Winter Classic victory

SEATTLE — From the crowd chanting his name to being awarded the game’s MVP trophy, the Winter Classic became Joey Daccord‘s world, with the Seattle Kraken goaltender leading his team to a win 3-0 on Monday against the Vegas Golden Knights,

Daccord’s second career shutout also proved to be the first in Winter Classic history and just the fourth since the NHL started playing outdoor games on a more frequent basis, beginning with the Heritage Classic in 2003.

“I think it was a special day for everybody. For our team, for our city, for hockey,” he said. “It was an incredible day and just so grateful to be a part of it. It was really special, and it was a huge win for our group. That’s a good team over there. It’s a big two points. And at the same time , it’s something I’ll never forget, and it’s one of the coolest days of my whole life.”

With 19 career games prior to this campaign, Daccord has used this season to emerge as one of the Kraken’s most important players. His latest performance not only saw the Kraken win their fifth straight game, but they did it against the defending Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights.

The Kraken scored all their goals within the first five minutes of each period to help set the stage for one of the 27-year-old netminder’s strongest performances.

Daccord established himself by staying in position during a 2-on-1 late in the first period that saw him collect a loose puck off Kraken defenseman Vince Dunn‘s stick. A minute later, a turnover in the Kraken’s end saw the Golden Knights star center. Jack Eichel received a point-blank scoring chance that Daccord turned down with his left leg.

Late in the third, Eichel found space on a cross-ice pass. He immediately fired a one-timer that Daccord swallowed whole, leading to the majority of the T-Mobile Park fans giving the goalie a standing ovation while repeatedly chanting “Jo-ey! Jo-ey! Jo-ey!”

When asked for a moment that stood out most, Daccord said the save on Eichel was one of them.

“Apart from the game, it’s probably just that the first time coming out for the start of warmups. No helmet on with the beanie on; that was pretty cool,” Daccord said. “Just to see that, and I’ve never been on the field for something like that before. Just to walk out to the ice like that and hear the roar of the crowd was insane, and I’ll never forget it.”

The Golden Knights and Kraken entered the game in traditional Winter Classic style. The Golden Knights walked into the arena dressed like Elvis Presley, while the Kraken dressed as fishermen in short-sleeved white shirts, orange overalls and an orange winter hat.

When it came time for the game, the players were introduced to the crowd by Seattle’s Sir-Mix-a-Lot as they walked along a faux deck that took them from the dugouts to their respective benches.

There was even a moment when Kraken coach Dave Hakstol made the Winter Classic even more personal. He and his staff were walking to the bench to start the third period when he high-fived a fan who was attending the game with family members.

“That’s just spur-of-the-moment stuff, but I think that stuff is really important,” Hakstol said. “Not for me but for a kid or a family to be able to come and have fun at this event. Awesome. Little things like that stick out.”

Beating the Golden Knights (22-11-5) resulted in several significant accomplishments for the Kraken (15-14-9).

There’s getting a win over the reigning Stanley Cup champions, who sit second in the Pacific Division. There’s the fact the Kraken improved to 2-8 versus Vegas in what has been a one-sided series against the NHL’s two most recent expansion teams. It was also the Kraken’s first win in Seattle against the Golden Knights.

Then there’s the context of what it means for the Kraken’s playoff chances.

One of the NHL’s most dominant teams a season ago, the Kraken have had a harder time coming by goals and victories this time around. They entered December in the middle ground — equidistant from the final wild-card spot and for having the fewest points in the NHL.

Since Dec. 12, the Kraken have become one of the NHL’s hottest teams — winners of seven of nine games — and they enter the new year just a point behind the Arizona Coyotes for the final wild-card spot (with the caveat that the Coyotes have played three fewer games).

“It’s a thin line between winning and losing,” Hakstol said. “There’s no major differences in our game. But it’s a pretty good formula tonight. We scored early and didn’t have to chase the game. Key saves at the right time.

“It’s a bunch of little things that add up.”

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