SportsPulse: USA TODAY’s hockey insider Kevin Allen details the story lines that you should pay attention to this season.
USA TODAY Sports
SHANGHAI (AP) — In the first NHL preseason game played in China, the Los Angeles Kings used a third-period scoring spurt to put away the Vancouver Canucks 5-2 on Thursday.
The teams gave the raucous Shanghai 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.
“Obviously, you wanted to put on a show for the fans here and they got to see some goals, too,” said Vancouver forward Sven Baertschi, who scored the Canucks’ first goal.
The players were unsure of the reception they’d get in the league’s first year in China, a country that has little experience with winter sports and few hockey rinks or players. But the crowd was immediately receptive to the action on the ice.
The NHL offered a primer that featured team mascots before the game. An announcer came onto the ice to explain the finer points of the game as Fin — Vancouver’s killer whale — and Bailey — Los Angeles’ lion — mimicked infractions such as charging, crosschecking, tripping and hooking.
A golden Chinese dragon came out next, held aloft on poles by seven skaters. A group of Chinese kids in hockey uniforms joined the NHL players during the Chinese national anthem.
Even if hockey is relatively unknown in China and the rules remain somewhat of a mystery, the crowd certainly appreciated the speed and collisions of the sport. Every shot on goal was met with a loud cheer and each hard check against the walls was met with a collective ‘Oooh’ or ‘Aaah.’
“To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know the crowd, the noise, the atmosphere,” said Los Angeles coach John Stevens. “I think the whole thing for me is — we’re here to grow the game. It’s my hope that the more they see it, the more…