(The Sports Xchange) - Tanner Pearson scored two goals in an exhibition game, which would typically be no gigantic feat.
But it felt like more of an accomplishment to the Los Angeles left wing with Thursday’s contest being the first NHL game played in China.
Standout goalie Jonathan Quick made 31 saves and the Kings posted a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks before 10,088 fans in Shanghai.
“There’s definitely some significance to playing the game here,” Kings coach John Stevens said afterward. “The guys were talking about it being one of the first teams to play a game here. To be quite honest we didn’t know what it would be like: the crowd, the noise and the atmosphere.”
The atmosphere certainly wasn’t a problem as Chinese fans were enthralled by the action. One of the biggest cheers inside Mercedes-Benz Arena came when NBA icon Kobe Bryant appeared on video to pass on a message to the Kings.
The Kings and Canucks play again on Saturday in Beijing, host of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The NHL views the visit to China as a chance to grow the sport, and Canucks coach Travis Green shares that vision.
“It’s great for China itself to see the NHL live and in person, see the speed of the game, how good the players are,” Green said. “But whenever you’re bringing hockey to a new country, it’s going to take time. I think it’s great the NHL is committed to doing that.”
This is just the beginning of the NHL’s preseason trips to China. The league signed a deal to play two games in China six times in an eight-year span.
“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.”
Defenseman Jake Muzzin contributed three assists for the Kings. Left wing Sven Baertschi and center Markus Granlund scored goals for the Canucks.