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A sweet start for Kings after playoffs' bitter end

Anze Kopitar is bloodied by a stick in the face, but the Kings open the season with an emotional win.

October 09, 2010|Helene Elliott

From Vancouver, Canada — Blood was still oozing from a cut on the left side of Anze Kopitar's face, just above the lip, well after the Kings had rallied for a 2-1 shootout victory over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena in both teams' season opener.

After taking an inadvertent stick in the face on the follow-through of a clearing pass by Vancouver's Manny Malhotra at 8:57 of the second period, Kopitar needed 15 stitches on the outside of his mouth and three on the inside. He also lost a false tooth.

"I look like a hockey player now," he said, his grin lopsided.

True to the legends of stoic hockey players who play through injuries that would make other athletes retreat to the disabled list for weeks, Kopitar came back in the third period and scored in the shootout on a backhander past Roberto Luongo.

Jonathan Quick had stopped Vancouver's first shooter, Mason Raymond, and he frustrated the next shooter, Ryan Kesler. When Jack Johnson scored on a wrist shot that clanged off the post, the Kings had completed an impressive rally against the team that had eliminated them from the playoffs last spring

"I wouldn't say revenge. More of a boost for [Sunday] to get off to a good start," Kopitar said, referring to the Kings' next game, at Calgary. "With the young guys coming into the league I'm sure they feel a little better after a win than they would after a loss.

"We knew it was going to be an emotional game. They beat us. No secret. But there's still three games left with those guys and every single one is going to be emotional and hard."

Kopitar said he had no quarrel with the lack of a penalty against Malhotra.

"The guy went to clear the puck and got me on the follow-through," Kopitar said. "Sometimes that is a penalty, sometimes not. In this case it wasn't. It's not like I had the puck and the guy high-sticked me."

He also said he never thought about staying in the locker room even though he was staggered by the shot to the face and had to be helped off the ice, bent over at the waist as he glided off.

"I had it in my head I was going to come back as soon as I left the ice surface," said Kopitar, who went off at 8:57 and was ready to go by the time the period ended.

Said Williams: "I was telling him I don't know what took so long. He looks fine."

Other than three needless penalties taken by Alexei Ponikarovsky in his Kings debut, the Kings looked solid throughout the game. Brayden Schenn filled in neatly for Kopitar, Kyle Clifford was a physical force and took no guff, and defenseman Jake Muzzin looked capable paired mostly with Davis Drewiske.

They came expecting a battle, and that's what they got.

The Canucks scored first, at 11:58 of the second period, during a power play. Daniel Sedin took a pass from his brother, Henrik — who was appointed the team's captain Saturday — and threw the puck in front. Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi got a stick on it but it bounced to Christian Ehrhoff, who tapped it in.

The Kings tied it at 15:55 of the third period, also during a power play. Dustin Brown took a shot from above the left circle that glanced off Michal Handzus and to Justin Williams, who tapped it in for a goal that was reward for the punishment he took all night.

"They're a very aggressive defensive team," Williams said. "Their defense is always coming. You've always got to be ready to get hit."

The Kings had a chance to win it during an overtime power play, controlling the puck for just about the entire advantage and forcing Luongo to make several good saves. Luongo stopped six shots in overtime and 31 overall. Quick stopped 23, but he stopped short of saying it was a payback for the Kings' playoff loss last spring.

"At the end of the day it's one game, one game of 82, and we'll take it for what it's worth," he said. "We got the two points and that's what we came in for."

That made it easy for them to smile afterward, even Kopitar, through his pain.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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