Avalanche star Cale Makar becomes an unlikely villain after punching Kraken’s Jared McCann

Climate Pledge Arena’s first public hockey enemy No. 1 was an unlikely candidate.

Avalanche superstar Cale Makar put a late, hard-to-watch hit on Kraken’s lone 40-goal scorer, Jared McCann, who left Game 4 after 3:38 of ice time and didn’t didn’t come back. He was initially called a major, but officials downgraded him to a minor for interfering in the disbelief of the local crowd.

“They felt there was a puck in play in the fight,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said.

“I was not okay with that, obviously, watching it live, and of course watching it after (ward).”

The Kraken’s Daniel Sprong scored on the ensuing power play, but it wasn’t fair enough for those in the stands. Kraken devotees enthusiastically booed Makar when he jumped over the boards, every time he touched the puck and sometimes just because they didn’t like the way he looked.

Morgan Geekie celebrates his third goal in period with teammate Justin Schultz and Alex Wennberg, who scored the second goal for Seattle.  (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times)

The best payback came when Jordan Eberle scored through Makar on the power play in overtime, sealing a 3-2 win over Kraken and sending Denver the best-of-seven series tied at two games apiece.

They will be without McCann. Hakstol ruled out their top winger for Game 5 and ‘probably longer than that’.

“I believe the puck is caught by a fan as ‘Canner’ collides,” Hakstol said. “Late kick. Really late. No puck in play.”

Never in the Kraken’s short history has a visiting player inspired this type of venom.

Makar, among the league’s best defenders, is far more likely to go viral for his gravity-defying edge play than his goonery, and his trophy case is more impressive than his rap sheet — which is non-existent. He has not been fined or suspended at the NHL level.

He talked a referee out of giving his team a power play in December because he didn’t trip — he just fell. He’s usually the picture of first-team humility and seems almost embarrassed by all the attention he’s getting.

Makar is the defending winner of the Norris Trophy, awarded “to the defensive player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in that position”. He’s also Conn Smythe’s 2022 winner, or playoff MVP, as a crucial part of the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup championship last spring.

He became the first player booed for breathing in the Kraken arena. Around 8:20 a.m. into Game 4, McCann, the Kraken’s regular-season leader in goals (40) and shorthanded goals (3), looked for another scoring chance from the penalty spot with Makar on his heels. Colorado goaltender Alexandar Georgiev deflected the puck high and out of play. McCann watched his trajectory and slowed, facing forward and in a vulnerable position as he rounded the curve of the boards.

Makar said after the game that he wasn’t sure which direction the puck was going to go.

“I know he fired. And then I just assumed he was going around the corner, because he was going down. So I didn’t really watch,” he said. “And then, yeah, just unfortunate how it happened.”

Makar twisted and pushed McCann into the glass. McCann’s header appeared to be part of the initial contact with the boards. McCann fell to his back, then squatted on his hands and knees.

“It’s unfortunate. I never want to hurt the guys. I hope he’s okay,” Makar said. “In the end, I didn’t feel like I tried to finish him too. strong. But, I mean, I feel like if I was in that scenario, they would have done the exact same thing.

“So I’m not trying to hurt anyone. It’s just unfortunate. Hard bounce. And they got the call. That’s all you can ask for.

A coach saw McCann for several minutes and brought him to the bench with the help of his Kraken teammate Brandon Tanev. McCann headed straight into the tunnel and didn’t play another shift.

Any Kraken player who landed the body on Makar the rest of the game received an appreciative roar. No one faced Makar or anyone else, but the Kraken put up 51 hits on the Avalanche, the most of an already physical streak.

Kraken center Yanni Gourde began jostling with Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson in front of the Colorado bench and was sent down the tunnel for the first intermission to the chorus of “Yanni!” Yanni! »

Makar then put the Kraken’s Oliver Bjorkstrand in a headlock behind the Avalanche net. Maybe that one was just to keep the peace. The crowd at the Climate Pledge Arena couldn’t care less.

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers was perhaps the first scorned opponent at the CPA, as his own push away from the game – also an interference penalty – led to Matty Beniers concussion. The Kraken rookie missed the All-Star Game. But that happened when the Canucks last visited Seattle, so Kraken fans won’t be able to take a bite out of Myers until the fall.

In both cases, the timing made the situation worse. The knock on Beniers came days before the All-Star break, and the Kraken badly needed McCann’s killshot as they trailed the defending champions 2-1 in the first-round series.

They found a way without him, for him.

“When you see a guy go down like that, as a teammate, it’s frustrating. You want to do what you can for him,” Kraken winger Jaden Schwartz said.

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