VANCOUVER -- The Kings took the first blow, and were bloodied. Down to their last five minutes, against one of the NHL's top teams, the Kings showed they wouldn't easily be knocked out.
Earning a measure of revenge against the team that ended their season in the spring, the Kings scored a late power-play goal, then beat the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 in a shootout Saturday night before a charged sellout crowd of 18,860 at Rogers Center in the season opener.
Justin Williams scored with 4:05 remaining to tie the game, after Christian Ehrhoff's second-period power-play goal. Anze Kopitar, who needed 18 stitches after being cut by an errant stick, scored in the shootout, as did Jack Johnson, and Jonathan Quick made two saves.
``It's definitely a good start, a big win,'' team captain Dustin Brown said. ``We just stuck with it, stuck with our game plan and we scored with about four minutes left. That's what we needed. We just stuck with our game plan and our system and kept working, and we knew goals would come.''
Saturday's game came as advertised. The Canucks are widely predicted to be Stanley Cup contenders, and the Kings as are being discussed as one of the top teams in the West.
It was a hard-fought, tight-checking game, one in which the Canucks typically excel but in which the Kings are seeming to be increasingly comfortable. There was a premium on sharp passing, smart defense and stable goaltending, and the Kings got passing marks in all areas.
Quick, who had a rough go in the last season's six-game playoff loss, looked sharp throughout the game as he made 23 saves, plus a world-class stop in the first round of the shootout.
``He was good,'' coach Terry Murray said. ``He was very good. He really was focused in. He was good on the composure side of things. You can tell when he's on top of things, with his body language and how he's following the puck, out in the crease and challenging, square to it. And what a great save on the first shooter (in the shootout). Not a lot of goalies would make that one.''
New addition Alexei Ponikarovsky took three minor penalties in the game's first 42 minutes, but drew an interference penalty on Ryan Kesler with 5:45 remaining in the third period.
As the power play wound down, Kopitar pushed the puck down low and Brown shot from the right circle. Michal Handzus, near the front of the net, deflected the puck with his skate and Williams was in good position in front to tip the puck past Roberto Luongo.
``I don't think we were nervous at all,'' Johnson said. ``We knew we were going to get our chances. We were only down one goal, so there was no reason to panic. Twenty minutes is a long time to get one goal.''
Williams' goal tied the game with 4:05 remaining, and the Kings had an excellent chance to win it in overtime when Kevin Bieksa was called for interference at the 2:35 mark.
The Kings controlled the puck in the Vancouver zone for the entire two minutes, and outshot the Canucks 6-0 in the extra five minutes, but needed the shootout.
``We had some good opportunities throughout the game,'' Quick said. ``Lou [Luongo] made some big saves for them, to keep it a 1-0 game. We were fortunate enough to get on the power play late in the third and poke one home. We could have ended it in overtime but Lou made a handful of saves there that he probably shouldn't have. It's just good to get the two points, and we're looking forward to Calgary now.''
Kopitar will be there, albeit with a sore mouth. Nobody on the Kings' roster personified the win like Kopitar, who was able to smile after the game through a busted-up mouth.
Just under nine minutes into the second period, Kopitar went to play the puck in a corner and was struck in the mouth by the stick of Vancouver's Manny Malhotra, who hit Kopitar while following through on a clear.
Kopitar stayed on the ice for a couple minutes, in obvious discomfort, with blood on the ice, and missed the rest of the second period while trainers gave him 15 stitches around his upper lip and three stitches inside his mouth.
Kopitar returned for the start of the third period and scored in the shootout. Malhotra was not called for a penalty on the play, a point not argued by either Kopitar or Murray after the game. Kopitar said there was never a question, in his mind, that he would return to the game.
``No, not unless you're told not to come back,'' Kopitar said. ``I don't think there's any doubt in anybody's mind. I had it in my mind that I was going to come back, as soon as I left the ice. I knew I was going to come back.''
Schenn started on the fourth line but filled in for Kopitar during the second period and didn't look out of place. Schenn played more than 14 minutes and tied for the team high with five shots.
``He was in the top five forwards on the ice tonight, on both teams,'' Murray said. ``He was that good. Intelligence, composure, a major contributor. He filled in for Kopitar when he was out for quite a while with the high stick. Just a tremendous first night for him.''
Shots were 11-11 in a scoreless first period in which both teams had a handful of quality scoring chances. The Kings had three power plays in the first 22 minutes but did not score.
The Canucks broke the scoreless tie with a power-play goal with 8:02 remaining in the second period. Daniel Sedin held the puck in the right circle, and when Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell came out to challenge, Sedin slipped the puck to Ehrhoff, who went to the front of the net and tipped the puck past Quick to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead.
That was all the Canucks would get from Quick, though.
After the game, Murray said he would stay with the plan he drew up last week, which means backup goalie Jonathan Bernier will start Sunday night's game at Calgary.
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