In the first NHL preseason game played in China, the Los Angeles Kings used a third-period rally to best the Canucks 5-2 on Thursday. The teams gave the raucous crowd a fast-paced, physical introduction to the NHL, combining for 17 penalties and several power- play opportunities. Tanner Pearson scored twice for the Kings and Alec Martinez and Jeff Carter each had a goal and an assist.
Worried about NHL success in China? An enthusiastic crowd of 10,088 came out to support the two opposing squads.
Olympic-sized sheet of ice might have also contributed to the disjointed quality of play, according to Henrik Sedin. The Canucks’ captain was asked big picture questions a couple of times in his post-game presser but seemed pre-occupied with the impact of the bigger ice surface on the play.
“It becomes a whole different game out there,” he said. “You’re trying to play with pace and speed but it’s more about finding space away from the puck. You saw a lot of open ice but it didn’t lead to a lot of chances.”
The plan now that the NHL has signed a contract to bring two preseason games to China for six of the next eight years. The Kings and Canucks play a second game in Beijing on Saturday.
“The effort here really is to build from the grassroots up, to try to grow the appreciation for the sport, the understanding of the sport,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said before the game. “We’ve certainly made the Chinese Ice Hockey Federation and the Chinese government aware that we’re willing to help any way we can as they gear up and prepare for the 2022 Beijing Olympic Games.”
More to come in China by Saturday.