It was a nice start to the season for the Los Angeles Kings, as they grabbed 2 points and a win in their season opener in Stockholm against the New York Rangers. After an ineffective powerplay all game, Jack Johnson won it on a powerplay goal with 52 seconds remaining in overtime. Assists went to Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar, both had very strong games, and each had one of the other two Kings goals. Ryan Callahan and Marian Gaborik had the goals for the Rangers, and although Callahan’s goal was very soft, Quick did make 24 saves in the win. Let’s break the game down now:
1st period: The Kings dominated the 1st period, outshooting New York 13-4. Anze Kopitar opened the scoring for the Kings at the 10:51 mark, scoring off a one-time slapshot off a beautiful backhand saucer pass from Justin Williams on a play that started from a Rangers turnover in their own end. Then on pretty much the first time the Rangers ever got pressure in the Kings’ zone, Ryan Callahan took a shot from almost behind the net that somehow beat Jonathan Quick at the 15:22 mark. Artem Anisimov and Ruslan Fedotenko had the assists. It was an awful, and deflating, goal for Quick to allow, to be certain. The Kings were 0-for-2 on the power play. Henrik Lundqvist robbed Dustin Brown late in the period.
2nd period: The Rangers got off to a much better start to the 2nd period and carried over the momentum from the Callahan goal. However, the Kings would pick up the play before the end of the period. The Rangers outshot the Kings 8-6 in a scoreless frame, and each team failed on a power play.
3rd period: The deadlock that began with 4:38 remaining in the 1st period was finally broken at the 10:28 mark of the 3rd, when Marian Gaborik picked up the puck in front out of a scramble and shot it past Jonathan Quick. Brandon Dubinsky and Brad Richards picked up the assists, Richards’ first as a Ranger. Then, it was the other Richards tying it up for the Kings, as Mike went hard to the net and deflected the Brad Richardson pass by Henrik Lundqvist to tie the game at the 15:01 mark. Dustin Brown also picked up an assist. The Kings had a power play with 2:03 remaining to try and get a regulation win, but once again failed with the man-advantage.
Overtime: The Kings were given another power play in overtime, their fifth of the game, and finally capitalized one one. Mike Richards, from the side of the net, threw it in front, and the rebound popped out to Jack Johnson who made no mistake and buried it up high on Lundqvist. The assists went to Kopitar and Richards, who each had one of the other two Kings goals. Game, set, and match. The Kings overcome a 3rd period deficit to take it 3-2 in overtime. The Kings outshot the Rangers 30-26.
So, the Kings salvage their season opener. Jonathan Quick seemed to settle in after that weak goal to Callahan, but I still wouldn’t be surprised to see Jonathan Bernier get the call against the Sabres tomorrow. Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Mike Richards, and Alec Martinez stood out to me as having very strong games. Simon Gagne, Dustin Brown, and Drew Doughty didn’t look great. Jack Johnson was mediocre until his overtime goal, and had one brutal turnover that Quick bailed him out on.
Now with two points in their back pocket, the Kings head back to Germany, this time to Berlin, rather than Hamburg, where they will play the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres are coming off a big offseason where they made many key additions to what was already a good team, such as Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr, and Ville Leino, and became one of the highest-spending teams in the NHL, and many believe they’re now a Stanley Cup contender. Count me among them. Buffalo is one season removed from winning the Northeast Division, but a very slow start last season cost them a chance at that again. But they pulled out of it in time to make the playoffs for a second consecutive year, but were eliminated by the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games. The Sabres had a down year, as did key players such as Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers, but both should bounce back and be much better, as should the team, plus you add a healthy Derek Roy to this team along with Ehrhoff, Regehr, and Leino, and you’ve got a heck of a team. They’re coming off a 4-1 season opening win over the Anaheim Ducks today, and will give the Kings all they can handle tomorrow. Ryan Miller is arguably the best goalie in the world, they have an impressive blue line featuring six of Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Andrej Sekera, and Mike Weber. They also have a lot of firepower and depth up front, with talents such as new captain Jason Pominville, Drew Stafford, Derek Roy, Brad Boyes, Ville Leino, Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis, and
Thomas Vanek. The Kings and Sabres met once last season, in Buffalo, and it was a 4-2 Sabres victory. If Jonathan Bernier does indeed get the call, he’ll be looking to avenge himself, as we was the goaltender in net for the loss in Buffalo last year. No word yet on the lines for tomorrow, whether Dustin Penner will play, or who would come out of the lineup if he does, but my guess would be Scott Parse. Also no word on yet on whether Quick or Bernier will be between the pipes.
So, the Kings’ tough schedule to start the year continues, as they once again have their hands full tomorrow, this time with the Buffalo Sabres, who looked very impressive today in their season opening win over the Ducks. The Kings will look to take 4 points back overseas, where they will play the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers on the road before heading home for their home opener against the St. Louis Blues, the Kings’ first Western Conference match up of the young season. Can the Kings sweep their European schedule, or will they have to settle for a split across the pond?