HAMBURG, Germany -- A raucous, standing, clapping, cheering crowd had an upset victory in mind, but the Kings finished their preseason schedule with an expected win.
Against the Hamburg Freezers, a German pro team that includes a handful of former North American pros, the Kings trailed in the middle portion of the second period but rallied for a 5-4 victory on Tuesday night at the 02 World Arena.
The Kings now turn their attention to Friday’s NHL season opener against the New York Rangers in Stockholm, but first they put on a show for an appreciative crowd of more than 10,000, which showed appreciation for both teams throughout the game.
In the spirit of European soccer, a large portion of the fans clapped and cheered throughout the game, even when the Freezers faced a late two-goal deficit.
``The fans are tremendous here. I saw it in the (DEL) game that I was at yesterday, the excitement, the energy,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``They’re totally committed to the team. I have experienced that atmosphere before, and this just confirms again that hockey is a very popular sport and a thriving sport here in Germany.’’
For the Kings, the fans offered a series of ``oohs’’ and ``aahs’’ at every skilled play by the Kings. For a while, the fans probably had visions of a win.
Hamburg took a 3-2 lead with 8:18 remaining in the second period, but Anze Kopitar tied the game less than two minutes later on a sharp wrist shot, and the Kings took a 4-3 lead when Brad Richardson scored with 14 seconds left in the second period.
Neither team held more than a one-goal lead until Ethan Moreau scored on a rebound to put the Kings up 5-3 at the 3:50 mark of the third period. The Freezers scored a goal in the final minute to pull within one, but the Kings held on.
The Kings also got first-period goals from Justin Williams and Alec Martinez.
``I expected a game that was going to be pretty good energy from the Freezers,’’ Murray said. ``I thought, after the first five minutes of the first period, they started to show a lot of confidence with the puck, making plays. Their skill players did some very good things with speed, with moving the puck. They had some great scoring chances.
``There were plays that were made off the boards, in our D zone, that are uncharacteristic for us. We’re usually closing and eliminating people, but we seemed to be backing off. Whether that was the Olympic-sized sheet of ice, I’m not sure, but they made a lot of good plays, the Freezers.’’
As scheduled, the Kings goalies split the game. Jonathan Quick played the first 31-plus minutes and allowed three goals, while Jonathan Bernier played the rest of the game and allowed one goal. The Kings struggled on special teams, as they went 0-for-3 on the power play and 1-for-2 on the penalty kill.
Kings players cited the wider, Olympic-sized ice surface at the Hamburg arena as part of their struggles, particularly early in the game.
``You have a lot more time with the puck, on the offensive side of things,’’ Kings captain Dustin Brown said, ``but on the flip side of that, with the way our structure is, it’s hard to play because there’s no much extra ice.
``If you get extended towards the boards, there’s just so much ice in the middle, which you don’t want to give up. You could see, on some of their counters and their regroups, that they were finding the middle quite a bit because of the extra ice. We got extended to the outside and they found the inside. It’s tough to defend that.’’
The game marked the return of defenseman Drew Doughty, who missed all of training camp before he signed an eight-year, $56-million contract last week.
Per agreement with the coaches, both teams dressed 22 players -- normal in Germany, but two more than the NHL -- which allowed Murray to play eight defensemen and limit Doughty’s minutes in what was his first game action since late April.
``I felt good,’’ Doughty said. ``Obviously I didn’t feel 100 percent, or I didn’t feel the way I want to, but after the long trip and being out for so long, I thought I played well, and it was great to finally get a game under me. I think it’s going to help for the next game.’’
Kings winger Dustin Penner missed the game with an undisclosed lower-body injury, and after the game, Murray said Penner’s availability for Friday is in question.