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NHL

Kraken 5, Joe Pavelski 4

9:55 AM EDT on May 3, 2023

DALLAS, TEXAS - MAY 02: Oliver Bjorkstrand #22 of the Seattle Kraken celebrates after Yanni Gourde #37 of the Seattle Kraken scored the game-winning goal against Jake Oettinger #29 of the Dallas Stars in the first overtime period in Game One of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 02, 2023 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It may have occurred to Joe Pavelski as he drove home in sullen silence Tuesday night to recall the impromptu remarks of former teammate Joe Thornton nine years ago when he was asked if teammate Tomas Hertl's effusive celebration over scoring four goals in his third-ever game was excessive. Thornton's response, to tidy it up as much as we can, was to say that if he ever scored four goals in a game he would become publicly involved with his wedding tackle right there on the ice. Pavelski, who like your author was in the San Jose dressing room that night, laughed at the thought, although as a buttoned-up son of Wisconsin he did not take up Thornton's vow.

Good thing too, as Pavelski finally had his own four-goal game against Seattle Tuesday and all he got for it was a rinkside view of the Dallas Stars' 5-4 overtime loss to the Kraken, the NHL's newest upstarts, in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Pavelski had missed most of the Stars' previous series against Minnesota after getting clocked by Matt Dumba in Game 1, but was finally cleared to play. This was heralded as one more bit of good news for the Stars, who were already considered superior in most ways to Seattle and were expected to make short work of the short odds.

But the Kraken did what they do, and the playoffs did what they do. Seattle spotted Pavelski the first goal, tied the game and then spotted Pavelski a second before scoring three more times in the first period to take a only-Pavelski-surmountable 4-2 lead. Pavelski, sensing the moment, pounced on a Jamie Benn rebound halfway through the third and deflected a seemingly innocuous Jani Hakanpaa wrister in truest Pavelski fashion barely three minutes later to make himself a hero.

Except, of course, for three things. One, the Stars were playing at home, and home teams are losing at a stupendous 64-percent clip (33 of 52) so far in these playoffs. Two, the game went into overtime, and home teams have lost 11 of 13, a record for sending fans home sullen and bitter as well as drunk.

And three, the Kraken do not look pretty but they also do not die easily. They have gotten goals from 15 of the 20 players they have used in this postseason, and one each last night from Jaden Schwartz, Justin Schultz, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jordan Eberle, and the magnificently named Yanni Gourde. They come in waves, they win more than their share of battles along the wall, they were stout enough in defense when Pavelski was between shifts, and this was the first game in their entire postseason history when they didn't score first. They were the better team against Colorado, and they were the better team against all non-Pavelskii. The right result was had, no matter how weird it played out.

As for Pavelski, he is now the oldest of the 37 players ever to score four goals in a playoff game. He is also only the fourth to score four goals for the losing team, and the others are Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald, Hall of Famer Denis Savard, and ESPN Employee Of The Month Ray Ferraro. So while Pavelski can look with bittersweet fondness at last night, he will know that whatever homage he might have wanted to pay to Thornton, an overtime loss was not the proper stage. Pavelski has been playing long enough to understand time, place, and circumstances.

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