Sports

Defending Cup Champion Kings Stumble Out The Gates

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Chicago Blackhawks raised their own Stanley Cup championship banner just two seasons ago, so their core players already know it’s tough to go back to work after a pregame party.

Stanley Cup hangover?  Maybe… maybe not.  It’s hard to tell one game into the season after teams rushed back to play after a long lockout.

When the Los Angeles Kings were finished raising their banner and receiving their rings Saturday, the Blackhawks reminded the champs that what happened last year won’t help the Kings in this shortened NHL season.

Marian Hossa had two goals and an assist, Corey Crawford made 19 saves, and Chicago crashed the Kings’ Stanley Cup celebration with a 5-2 victory.

Captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each had a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks, who jumped to a 3-0 lead on Michael Frolik’s goal less than 15 minutes in.

With superior speed and skill, Chicago ruined the festivities shortly after the Kings hung their first championship banner in the Staples Center rafters.

“We wanted to have a good start, and whether they were going to be on their game or not didn’t really matter to us,” said Toews, the Conn Smythe Trophy-winning hero of Chicago’s 2010 title run.

“We tried not to focus on what was going on out there before the game. We were in (the locker room), just getting ready and doing our thing. We had a great first period, and when you come out in the first 20 minutes like that, you want to keep it going, and that’s what we did.”

With every player who touched the ice in last season’s playoffs returning to defend the title, the Kings received their championship rings during a stirring pregame ceremony that included each player passing the Cup around the boards. The Blackhawks didn’t watch it, but they seemed fired up from the opening faceoff.

“The season after you win the Cup, everyone is going to play their best game against the Cup champion, because that’s the game where you want to prove yourselves and make a statement,” said Kane, whose 5-on-3 goal started the rout. “So I think that’s what we were kind of feeling today.”

Rob Scuderi and Jordan Nolan scored and Jonathan Quick stopped 17 shots for the Kings, who are definitely done celebrating last season’s achievements as the first eighth-seeded playoff team to win the Stanley Cup.

Quick gave up five goals just once last season while making his first All-Star team, but he wasn’t much better than his teammates in his first game since winning the Conn Smythe Trophy and getting a 10-year, $58 million contract extension.

“You have to get used to getting knocked down and getting back up,” Quick said. “As the ceremony was going on, most of our guys were thinking about the game, but obviously you’re going to take a moment, and it’s a special moment for the team and fans.”

While the Kings learned they’ve got work to do, the Blackhawks showed why they’ve got a shot at repeating their 2010 championship run. Kane seemed particularly sharp after spending the lockout playing in Switzerland.

Hossa was the Blackhawks’ leading scorer last season, but he left his final game on a stretcher after a hit by Phoenix’s Raffi Torres, who got a 25-game suspension. The lockout was a benefit to Hossa’s recovery, and the 11-time 25-goal scorer is off to another big start.

“I haven’t played in a long time because of the concussion, so I tried to keep it simple, especially at the beginning,” Hossa said. “Nothing too fancy. They gave me short shifts and I tried to get into it. Obviously my timing is not there yet, but it’s going to come with the more games we play. My head is clear, otherwise I wouldn’t be playing if there were still some issues.”

Los Angeles began the season without two key players: Leading scorer Anze Kopitar, who hurt his knee while playing in Sweden, and defenseman Willie Mitchell, who had knee surgery.

Both players wore their uniforms and skates while participating in the pregame ceremony, but the Kings’ good pregame feelings got erased about two minutes in when Matt Greene and Trevor Lewis went to the penalty box 43 seconds apart. Los Angeles killed most of the 5-on-3, but Kane scored with 8 seconds left in the advantage.

Hossa, who set up Kane’s goal, then got credit for a score when his centering pass hit Drew Doughty’s skate and ricocheted past Quick. Just 74 seconds after that, Frolik put a pall over the celebratory crowd with the Blackhawks’ third goal on eight shots.

When Toews, who spent the week ailing with a cold, alertly scored 1:16 into the second period, a few scattered boos came down from the sellout crowd. The Kings’ defense appeared to miss Mitchell, while Kopitar’s absence has forced coach Darryl Sutter to shuffle the lines that worked so splendidly in last season’s playoffs.

“I think most people expected to be a little rusty, and both teams were,” said Scuderi, who scored midway through the second period. “We made a few mistakes, but we’re not taking it as an excuse.”

NOTES: Scuderi matched his entire goal total from 82 games last season. … Chicago scratched veteran RW Jamal Mayers and new D Michal Roszival. … Los Angeles scratched new RW Anthony Stewart after acquiring him from Carolina earlier in the week.

Do you expect the Kings to avoid a Stanley Cup hangover?  Let us know…

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