STOCKHOLM -- Throughout the summer, and the training camp, the Kings talked about the power play and ways to improve it. Then in the season opener, they had four chances in regulation and went 0-for-4.
Same old, same old? Not in overtime anyway, as Mike Richards and Jack Johnson both went hard to the net, and Johnson smacked in a power-play goal from close range to give the Kings a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday night at the Ericsson Globe.
In the first of a back-to-back set of games in Europe -- the Kings play the Buffalo Sabres in Berlin on Saturday -- the Kings dominated the first period and scored halfway through it, then allowed two goals and needed a goal from Mike Richards with five minutes remaining in regulation to force overtime.
``I think we had confidence the whole game, really,’’ Johnson said. ``I thought, in the first period, we really played extremely well. The second period, some things didn’t quite go as well. I didn’t get the sense that anyone was frustrated. I think this is a really confident group. We’re really excited about what this team can do.’’
New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh got called for holding, 2:51 into the five-minute overtime, and the Kings capitalized on the 4-on-3 advantage. Richards, in his first game after a summer trade from Philadelphia, went to the net from the right while Johnson pinched down from the left.
Richards got the puck across and Johnson slammed it past goalie Henrik Lundqvist from close range.
``We had kind of drawn up a little something there,’’ Johnson said, ``with the opportunity to just drive through their triangle there and try to open up something. Richards got the puck on the side of the net there, and he’s too good of a player to bail on him. I knew he would get it to me somehow. I was just trying to not put it in (Lundqvist’s) pads.’’
In all, it was a solid opener for the Kings, who ultimately got what they needed for most areas.
The Kings acquired Richards with the hope that he and Anze Kopitar would form one of the Western Conference’s top one-two combinations at center. It worked out, as Kopitar scored a first-period goal on a skilled one-timer, and Richards scored the big game-tying goal late in the third period.
The Kings killed the only penalty they were whistled for, and goalie Jonathan Quick allowed a soft goal in the first period, which made it 1-1, but otherwise was sharp and finished with 24 saves.
Ultimately, the power play also came through after four failed chances.
The Kings were the designated home team, but the majority of the crowd favored the Rangers, mostly because of native son Lundqvist, who helped Sweden win gold in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Lundqvist was extremely sharp early, as the Kings peppered him in the first period and oustshot the Rangers 13-4. The Kings took a 1-0 lead, but it could have been more, as they failed to score on two early power plays and also were robbed by Lundqvist on a couple point-blank chances.
Kopitar converted, though, to give the Kings a 1-0 lead. The play started at the blue line, where Simon Gagne got his stick on an attempted pass. The puck came to Justin Williams, who quickly found Kopitar in the right faceoff circle. Kopitar ripped a high one-time goal with 9:09 remaining in the period.
Kopitar looked exceptionally sharp in his first regular-season game since he suffered a devastating leg injury in late March and required surgery.
``It was good to get that first (goal), just get it out of the way for me and for the team,’’ Kopitar said. ``As I said a month ago already, my leg feels good. I have no pain and no problems, so that’s what I was looking for.’’
The Rangers didn’t record their first shot on goal until 4:44 remained in the first period, but that shot led to a game-tying goal. Quick saved Ryan Callahan’s medium-range shot, but Callahan eventually picked up the rebound behind the net and fired a sharp-angle shot that deflected off Quick and into the net.
After a scoreless second period, in which both teams went 0-for-1 on the power play, the Rangers started strong in the third period and the Kings didn’t record their first shot on goal until the eight-minute mark.
New York took a 2-1 lead with 9:32 remaining in the period. Brad Richards kept the puck in the zone and Brandon Dubinsky took a close-range shot. Quick made the stop, but the Kings couldn’t clear or cover the puck, and Marian Gaborik, unmarked at the side of the net, knocked in the rebound.
Richards’ goal tied the game with 4:59 remaining in regulation. Brad Richardson took the puck wide left and waited for Richards to get near the front of the net. Richardson whipped a pass to the crease, and Richards reached out and poked the puck past Lundqvist with his stick blade.
``I had kind of seen (Richardson) eyeing me on the way up the ice,’’ Richards said. ``He made a good play on the wall, and I just went to the net and kind of stuck my stick out there. Richie made a great play.’’
The Kings had a chance to win the game in regulation, when Brian Boyle was called for interference with 2:03 remaining. They didn’t score, but Johnson came through with the power-play winner in overtime.
``I really liked our start,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said. ``The first period was the kind of start that you would like to have. I thought we backed off a little bit in the second period, with a few turnovers. The Rangers started to come after us and pulled ahead with the 2-1 lead. But it was a good push-back.’’