LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Chicago Blackhawks spoiled the Los Angeles Kings’ opening day party when the visitors eased to a 5-2 victory over the Stanley Cup champions as the strike-shortened NHL season finally got underway on Saturday.
Confronted by a hostile Staples Center crowd already whipped into frenzy after the pre-game unveiling of the championship banner, Chicago quickly put a lid on the fervor with three unanswered goals in the opening period.
The Kings looked the rustier of the teams after the lengthy labor dispute reduced the 82-game season to 48 contests and were made to pay by the 2010 Stanley Cup winners.
Marian Hossa was the destroyer in chief, scoring twice and adding an assist, while Patrick Kane, Michael Frolik and Jonathan Toews also added goals for Chicago. Rob Scuderi and Jordan Nolan replied for Los Angeles.
Given the lengthy pre-game ceremony perhaps the Kings started a little flat, although they were not looking for excuses.
“You have to get used to getting knocked down and getting back up,” Kings 2012 playoff MVP and goalie Jonathan Quick said.
“It’s a special moment for the team and fans, but everyone knew what we were here to do and try to win a hockey game and unfortunately we weren’t able to do that.”
Kane grabbed the honor of the season’s first goal when he slapped the puck home with the game less than four minutes old. The power-play score set the tone for the day with Hossa, the assist man in the opening goal, scoring after 13 minutes to double the lead.
Frolik found the mark soon afterward to stretch the lead to 3-0 heading into the first break.
When Chicago captain Toews kick-started the second period with another goal for the visitors the celebration was truly over for Kings’ fans.
In just 22 minutes the Kings had let in more goals than they conceded in any playoff game during their phenomenal 16-4 run through the 2012 postseason.
“Scoring first certainly helped and having a great first period like that quieted the crowd a bit,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said.
Scuderi gave the home side a glimmer of hope with the Kings’ first goal late in the second period, and the fans dared to dream when Nolan cut the deficit to just two with just over 10 minutes left to play.
But Hossa sliced a shot past Quick barely 15 seconds later to ice the win.
Afterwards the Chicago players admitted being a spectator to the Kings’ coronation ceremony fired them up.
“Everyone is going to play their best game against the cup champion,” Kane said.
”That’s the game you want to prove yourself and make a statement.
“I think that’s what we were feeling tonight and we had the opportunity to do that.”
Editing by John O'Brien and Gene Cherry