LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Simon Gagne and Mike Richards are in Los Angeles because the Kings needed more offence. Jonathan Quick showed the new Kings still know how to play sturdy defence.
If the Kings put it all together, they could be the potent team that steamrolled the St. Louis Blues in its home opener.
Gagne had two goals and an assist in his home debut, and Quick made 27 saves for his 15th shutout in Los Angeles’ 5-0 victory over St. Louis on Tuesday night.
Anze Kopitar, Jarret Stoll and captain Dustin Brown each had a goal and an assist as the Kings finally returned home from a two-week, two-continent road trip, kicking off a season of high expectations with a blowout win.
“We want to show what type of team we are, and it’s good to get the first win and get a lot of goals for the fans,” said Gagne, a seven-time 20-goal scorer. “It’s always fun to go to a hockey game and see some goals.”
Los Angeles’ fans didn’t have that kind of fun much last season: The Kings finished 25th out of 30 teams with just 2.55 goals per game, fewest among all 16 playoff teams.
Their reinforcements are getting the job done so far: Richards had an assist after getting a loud pregame ovation, while Gagne—his former Flyers linemate—showed why he expects to return to high-scoring form after managing just 17 goals in Tampa Bay last season.
Kopitar also has returned on top of his formidable game. After missing the playoffs last season with an ankle injury, the Slovenian scorer has nine points in Los Angeles’ first five games, including four multipoint games.
“After the long road trip, sometimes it gets too long and you have trouble focusing,” Kopitar said. “I thought guys battled through it well. When you get off to a nice start like that, it builds up your confidence.”
The Kings returned to California on Sunday after a sojourn that started in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 and included stops in Hamburg, Stockholm and Berlin for an exhibition and two regular-season games. Los Angeles then stayed in Annapolis, Md., for a few days before road games at New Jersey and Philadelphia.
In front of a lively sellout crowd at Staples Center, Los Angeles emphatically ended the Blues’ curious mastery over them. Struggling St. Louis had won eight of its past nine meetings with the contending Kings, including all four games last season and four straight in Los Angeles.
Jaroslav Halak allowed four goals on 18 shots before getting pulled in the opening minute of the third period for the Blues, who wrapped up a four-game road trip with three losses. St. Louis has allowed a power-play goal in all six games this season while scoring just one power-play goal—none in the past five games.
“You never anticipate that,” Blues coach Davis Payne said. “I mean, you anticipate that you’re going to have stretches that you have to deal with, and you have to bear down and execute and get the job done on the PK, but this is a little more than we anticipated at this point.”
Quick caused many of those problems while remaining unbeaten in regulation this season. He was phenomenal in his 99th career victory, making several spectacular saves—including a marvellous stop on a tricky shot by Barret Jackman before the second-period buzzer.
“Any one of those bounces he made good saves on could have changed the game early on,” St. Louis right wing Matt D’Agostini said. “When it was 1-0 and 2-0, we could have used one of them to get back in the game, but it just wasn’t our night.”
Gagne skated in on Halak unchecked midway through the first period, scoring on his own long rebound for his second goal in five games with his new club, joining the Kings as a free agent after spending last season with the Lightning and the previous 10 with Philadelphia.
Brown fed Stoll from behind the net for a one-timer midway through the second period. Brown then scored in front during a 5-on-3 advantage 4 1/2 minutes later, putting the Kings up 3-0.
Payne pulled Halak after Kopitar scored on a long shot 23 seconds into the third period, and Gagne added his second goal on Brian Elliott after slipping behind the St. Louis defence to collect a slick pass from Kopitar.
NOTES: Drew Doughty, the Kings’ $56 million defenceman, missed the game on injured reserve. Doughty incurred an upper-body injury in last week’s win at Philadelphia, and the 21-year-old star will be out for at least a week. Slava Voynov made his NHL debut in Doughty’s place, playing nearly 20 minutes with a plus-2 rating in a pairing with Willie Mitchell. … Blues LW Andy McDonald is out indefinitely with another concussion. Alexander Steen got playing time in McDonald’s usual spot on a line with David Backes and Jamie Langenbrunner. … Backes put the puck in Quick’s net on a rebound with 14 minutes left, but two officials immediately waved off the goal on a high stick.