By Lisa Dillman – NHL.com
SHANGHAI — The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 Thursday on a historic night at Mercedes-Benz Arena in the 2017 NHL China Games presented by O.R.G. Packaging.
Kings left wing Tanner Pearson scored twice in front of 10,088 fans in the first NHL game to be played in China. It’s the first of a two-game preseason series between the Pacific Division rivals. The Kings and Canucks will play Saturday at Wukesong Arena in Beijing (3:30 a.m. ET; NHLN-US, SN, TVA Sports, NHL.TV).
“There’s definitely some significance to playing the game here,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “The guys were talking about it being one of the first teams to play a game here. To be quite honest we didn’t know what it would be like: the crowd, the noise and the atmosphere.”
Canucks defenseman Eric Gudbranson hoped the fans enjoyed their first look at the NHL.
“It was really fun,” Gudbanson said. “To begin with, this is a beautiful rink and they took to the game really well. I’m hoping they had fun and appreciated what we had to offer.”
The Kings scored twice in the first period, once in the second and twice in the third to back goaltender Jonathan Quick, who made 31 saves. Forwards Adrian Kempe and Jeff Carter and defenseman Alec Martinez had goals for Los Angeles, and defenseman Jake Muzzin had three assists.
Kempe earned the distinction of scoring the first NHL goal in China when his power-play slap shot from the top of the left circle beat Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom at 7:06 of the first period.
“I was happy I was the first guy to score, obviously,” said Kempe, a 21-year-old who had six points (two goals, four assists) in 25 games for the Kings last season. “We got a good start, it was a nice shot, so I was glad.”
Pearson made it 2-0 with an unassisted shorthanded goal at 15:18, scoring on a breakaway after intercepting an errant pass by Canucks forward Thomas Vanek.
“I didn’t like our first period,” Canucks coach Travis Green said. “I thought our play with the puck wasn’t good enough. I thought [the Kings were] good with the puck in the first compared to us. I like how we played the last two periods.”
Martinez made it 3-0 at 1:04 of the second period, but Baertschi cut the Kings’ lead to 3-1 with his power-play goal at 2:15 of second period and Granlund made it 3-2 at 12:37 of the third period.
Pearson gave the Kings a 4-2 lead with 3:03 left when he scored on another breakaway, and Carter scored into an empty net with 50.7 seconds remaining.