Kings win home opener, 3-1, over Atlanta
Ryan Smyth was struggling. Moving deeper into his 30s and with a lot of scars from 990 games worth of planting himself around the net and absorbing opponents’ jabs and shoves, the veteran left wing’s timing seemed off during the Kings’ training camp and through their first two games.
Had he simply worn out, or would a change of linemates revive him?
The goal-starved Kings needed a quick answer — and he gave them a strong and affirmative reply Tuesday in their home opener, lifting them to a 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers before a crowd that had not seen its heroes since April 25, when the Vancouver Canucks eliminated the Kings in a six-game, first-round playoff series.
Smyth brought the Kings even with the Thrashers when he backhanded a rebound past Chris Mason at 3:53 of the third period and set up Jarret Stoll’s go-ahead goal just over two minutes later. He later scored into an empty net at 19:30, earning roars from an announced sellout crowd at Staples Center.
The victory allowed the Kings to end an 0-2-1 streak against the Thrashers and record their first victory over Atlanta since Jan. 19, 2006.
After two unproductive games by Smyth, Coach Terry Murray had moved him off the top line and placed him on the left side with Stoll and Justin Williams. Andrei Loktionov took Smyth’s spot alongside Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.
For the first two periods neither line seemed to have a lot of chemistry. But Smyth came out blazing in the final period and helped the Kings tie it at 1-1.
He scored from his usual close range, capping off a play that began with a fine pass by Kopitar to Williams, who took an unsuccessful swipe at the puck. Smyth cruised in deep on the left side for a 10-foot backhander, his first goal of the season.
The Kings pulled ahead at 6:10, after Smyth sent a lead pass to Stoll, who skated in on the right side and took a 35-foot shot that appeared to deflect off a Thrasher defender before getting past Mason’s right arm and stick.
Jonathan Quick stopped 31 shots for the Kings (2-1), who have trailed entering the third period of all three games they’ve played this season. Tuesday’s victory was their first in a home opener since 2006, when they defeated the St. Louis Blues, 4-1.
More later at www.latimes.com/sports
-- Helene Elliott