It was supposed to be Henrik Lundqvist’s evening in the limelight, but Anze Kopitar stole the glory.
Kopitar scored on Lundqvist in the first period and assisted on the game-winning overtime goal as the Los Angeles Kings beat the New York Rangers 3-2 in the two teams’ season opener Friday in the Swedish capital.
Jack Johnson scored on a power-play goal with one minute left in overtime, tapping in a pass from recently acquired center Mike Richards.
The sell-out crowd had cheered wildly for the Rangers and goaltender Lundqvist, a legend in hockey-loving Sweden, though the performance by Kopitar — who moved to Sweden when he was 16-years-old to train — didn’t go unnoticed and was also appreciated by local fans.
“I did play in Sweden for three years, so I feel good here,” the Slovenia-born Kopitar said. “It was good to get that first [goal], to get it out of the way — for me and for the team.”
Mike Richards had scored with five minutes to go in regulation time to even the game at 2-2 and keep the Kings in the game.
The goal and the overtime assist by Richards seemed to lend immediate justification to the recent deal that saw the former Philadelphia Flyers captain traded to Los Angeles in a bid to improve the Kings’ offense and power-play chances.
“Mike Richards’ line — I thought they played well,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “They were energized and they did a good job overall in their checking responsibilities.”
Despite the defeat, Lundqvist didn’t let his fans down, displaying the kind of game that has made him one of the NHL’s best.
Among memorable plays, he made a superb glove save on a blistering shot by Dustin Brown with less than one minute to go in the first period and blocked a wraparound attempt by Justin Williams halfway through the second.
The Rangers were spotty on defense in the first period, making several clearing mistakes that turned into scoring chances for the Kings — one of which led to a goal.
Ruslan Fedotenko and Artem Anisimov botched a clearing attempt in the Rangers’ zone in the first period. That allowed Williams to steal the puck and feed Kopitar, who beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot.
The Rangers quickly regrouped, scoring their first goal of the season five minutes later when captain Ryan Callahan hit a tough-angled shot after a pass from Anisimov.
The Kings had failed to capitalize on four power plays in regular time, but scored a goal when it mattered most — after Rangers’ defenseman Ryan McDonagh was sent off for holding with just over two minutes remaining in overtime.
Marian Gaborik had put the Rangers up 2-1 halfway through the third period on a shot from just outside the crease. He was assisted by Brandon Dubinsky and Rangers newcomer Brad Richards — the line with which much of the Rangers’ hopes ride this year.
In other NHL action, it was:
‧ Sabres 4, Ducks 1
‧ Lightning 5, Hurricanes 1
‧ Red Wings 5, Senators 3
‧ Predators 3, Blue Jackets 2
‧ Stars 2, Blackhawks 1
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