Anze Kopitar felt right at home, even though the sellout crowd was rooting for the opposing goalie.
Kopitar scored on Henrik Lundqvist in the first period and assisted on the winning overtime goal, leading the Los Angeles Kings to a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers in their season opener Friday in Europe.
Jack Johnson scored a power-play goal at 4:08 in overtime, tapping in a pass from recently acquired center Mike Richards.
The crowd was solidly behind the Rangers and goaltender Lundqvist, a star in hockey-loving Sweden. But the performance by Kopitar – who moved to Sweden when he was 16 years old to train – also was appreciated by the local fans.
”I did play in Sweden for three years, so I feel good here,” the Slovenian-born Kopitar said. ”It was good to get that first (goal), to get it out of the way – for me and for the team.”
Richards also scored with 4:59 left in regulation, tying it at 2 after Marian Gaborik gave the Rangers the lead midway through the third period. Richards was acquired from Philadelphia in June in one of the biggest trades of the offseason.
”Mike Richards’ line – I thought they played well,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. ”They were energized, and they did a good job overall in their checking responsibilities.”
Lundqvist, who was born in Are, did manage to put on a show for his appreciative fans. He had a superb glove save on a blistering shot by Dustin Brown late in the first period, and blocked a wraparound attempt by Justin Williams halfway through the second.
The Rangers were spotty on defense in the first period, making several clearing mistakes that turned into scoring chances for the Kings – one of which led to a goal.
Ruslan Fedotenko and Artem Anisimov botched a clearing attempt in the Rangers’ zone in the first period. That allowed Williams to steal the puck and feed Kopitar, who beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot.
The Rangers quickly regrouped. Anisimov passed to captain Ryan Callahan, who beat Jonathan Quick from a tough angle to tie it at 1 at 15:22 in the first.
The Kings failed to capitalize on four power plays in regulation, but converted in overtime after Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh was sent off for holding.
”Two minutes left – they shouldn’t get a penalty like that,” Rangers center Brian Boyle said. ”They’re a good team – you don’t want to give them that kind of momentum in that position.”
New York was primed to open with a win when Gaborik converted a shot from just outside the crease at 10:28 in the third, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead. He was assisted by Brandon Dubinsky and Rangers newcomer Brad Richards.
Lundqvist had 27 saves, and Quick finished with 24 stops.
The Rangers will remain in Stockholm to play the Anaheim Mighty Ducks on Saturday, and the Kings travel to Berlin to play the Buffalo Sabres.