Twenty-eight years to the day the Los Angeles Kings made hockey history by playing in an outdoor NHL game in Las Vegas, they returned to town Friday and didn’t need the help of any grasshoppers.
Back on Sept. 27, 1991, the Wayne Gretzky-led Kings defeated the New York Rangers 5-2 at a specially constructed rink at Caesars Palace in front of 13,007. The game, played in 90-degree heat that attracted thousands of grasshoppers on the ice, helped give Las Vegas its first real taste of the NHL.
Fast forward to Friday at T-Mobile Arena where the city’s team, the Golden Knights, ran into a hot goalie. Jonathan Quick was stellar for the Kings, turning aside 40 of 42 shots in L.A.’s 3-2 win.
It was Vegas’ second straight preseason loss and the exhibition season concludes at 5 p.m. Sunday at home against San Jose. The 2019-20 regular season opens Wednesday night against the Sharks at T-Mobile.
Unlike Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to Colorado, the Knights (4-2 preseason) played all their regulars in what was termed the first of two dress rehearsals by coach Gerard Gallant. But some sloppy play in their own end, bad penalties and Quick’s standing tall in his net combined to the Knights’ demise.
“I liked the last two periods,” Gallant said. “The first period I didn’t think we played well at all, but the second and third period was a competitive game, and LA played a real good game. A fast game. So I thought it was a good game overall but the start wasn’t great.”
Brayden McNabb, who scored the second goal with a wrist shot from the left point to tie the game 2-2, said: “It’s good to play these two because it’s more game speed, and it’s more accurate to an NHL game. I felt better as the game went on and I’m looking forward to the next one.”
Should there be concerns with less than a week before the results count? It’s hard to say, given this was the first time Gallant played what would be close to his expected lineup. Still, there were a lot of bad on-ice decisions by his players, a lot of misreads from all four lines and the Kings, who are playing much faster than in the past under new coach Todd McLellan, did a lot of things right.
If there is any cause for concern it should be with right wing Alex Tuch, who went awkwardly into the end boards behind the L.A. net 8 1/2 minutes into the second period, hitting his head and shoulder. Tuch did not finish the game. Neither did his linemate, center Cody Eakin, who went out in the third period with an undisclosed injury after absorbing two checks.
“We’ll know more about them (Saturday),” Gallant said of Tuch and Eakin.