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NHL Winter Classic review: Seattle Kraken dominate Vegas Golden Knights

The reigning Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights arrived at T-Mobile Park for the 15th NHL Winter Classic dressed as Elvis, but the visitors were forced to check into Heartbreak Hotel following a 3-0 loss to a solid Seattle Kraken.

Home goaltender Joey Daccord made 35 saves to register the first shutout in the annual New Year's event's history as the Kraken racked up their fifth win in a row in front of a sell-out crowd of 47,313.

Streaking Kraken keep the good times rolling

The Kraken are still 10 points outside of the playoff places but with five straight wins, and nine games in a row picking up at least a point, there is no hotter team in the NHL right now.

They are rated +8000 to win the Pacific Division while the Golden Knights are joint-favorites at +175, but those odds would be hard to justify going solely on their relative Winter Classic performances. Despite the hot streak, Seattle is +300 to reach the playoffs.

The host city put on a spectacular show at the home of Major League Baseball's Seattle Mariners and although this is only the Kraken's third season in the NHL the crowd's response showed the city has fully embraced hockey.

Tolvanen tallies 100th career point

It took Seattle less than five minutes to break the deadlock as Eeli Tolvanen tipped Vince Dunn's shot from the point giving Vegas goaltender Logan Thompson no chance of making the save.

It was the 24-year-old Finn's 10th goal of the season and represented his 100th NHL point in 221 career games, the last 86 of which have been with the Kraken.

Coming on strong at the start of periods became a pattern of the game for the Kraken and Tolvanen was also involved in the play when Seattle doubled the lead 2:19 into the second period.

Defenseman Will Borgen found himself in the right place at the right time to slap home a rebound, sneaking the puck under Thompson's left armpit. It was Borgen's first of the season in a game that saw him log 18:27 of ice time.

Yanni Gourde stretched the lead to three 2:10 into the final period, with the former Tampa Bay forward notching his fifth goal of the season and 40th as a member of the Kraken.

Slow ice hampers Golden Knights

Playing outdoors brings complications and one of those - a less slippery surface - is a possible reason for Vegas' poor showing.

The Golden Knights like to play a slick, high-tempo game, but with the ice surface giving more friction than the players are used to they found themselves more vulnerable to Seattle's defensive, grinding tactics.

The lower speed may also have contributed to the low penalty count. There were plenty of hits, but we were 16:39 into the second period before Seattle's Adam Larsson was called for interference resulting in the first powerplay of the game.

Vegas later saw Brayden McNabb and Alex Pietrangelo sent to the box in the final 10 minutes of the game, but neither side was able to capitalise on the man advantage.

Having played a joint league-high 38 games and five of their last six on the road will only have exacerbated the issue, but Vegas will need to pick up its play if they are to defend their championship.

Pacific battle heats up

The Golden Knights went 11-0-2 in their first 13 games of the season to record the best start in history for a defending Stanley Cup champion, but they are 6-6-1 in their last 13.

They arrived in Seattle following an important 3-2 win over division rivals the LA Kings, but Vegas have now lost five of their last six and they have been pretty streaky throughout the season.

On the face of it there is little danger that the Golden Knights will fall out of the playoff picture, but it's likely they will be third in the Pacific Division when Vancouver and the Kings catch up their games in hand. 

Meanwhile the Kraken and Edmonton Oilers, fourth and fifth in the division, are both riding five-game win streaks and have the ability to threaten the teams at the top.

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