LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Kings gathered at center ice while the Stanley Cup was lowered from the scoreboard, and they watched their championship banner raised to the rafters in a stirring pregame ceremony.
Those good feelings were largely gone by the time the Kings stumbled back to their dressing room after a blowout loss to the San Jose Sharks, who seized the chance to erase a bit of last season’s bad memories.
Tommy Wingels scored two goals, Antti Niemi made 34 saves in his 28th career shutout, and the Sharks crashed the Kings’ Stanley Cup banner celebration with a 4-0 victory in the season opener Wednesday night.
The pregame celebration was the only thing that went according to plan for the Kings, who commemorated their 26-game playoff run to their second title in three years. After the standing ovations and celebrations, San Jose largely dominated the Kings in the first two periods with superior puck possession and movement.
“That’s just an excuse,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “We’ve been there before. … There are worse problems to have, so it’s one of those things that goes with the territory. That wasn’t why we were sloppy. We were sloppy because we didn’t prepare properly.”
Los Angeles started its playoff charge with a seven-game, first-round victory over the Sharks, who went through an offseason of rigorous self-evaluation. San Jose stripped the captaincy from Joe Thornton and parted ways with defensemen Dan Boyle and Brad Stuart.
Yet little else changed about the perennial playoff team, and the Sharks returned in their usual regular-season form.
“It’s been a long summer, thinking about this game,” Wingels said. “When the schedule came out and we saw that this was our first game, the media loved it, the fans loved it, and we as players loved it, too. There’s not a better way for us to start the season, and for us to be able to come in here and have this kind of success, it’s a big win.”
Patrick Marleau had a goal and an assist. Wingels and Matt Nieto scored 14 seconds apart in a three-goal second period that sent the Sharks to their NHL-best fifth straight season-opening victory.
Niemi withstood a two-man advantage for the Kings in the final 1:07 of the third period.
“Losing the way we lost to them, we waited a long time for today,” Niemi said. “I think we’ve gained a little bit (of ground) on them (in the offseason). We’re more hungry and we really want to do the details right this time.”
The home team had won 20 of the last 22 games in this rivalry before this one-sided win by the Sharks, who were an interesting choice of opponent for the Kings’ celebration night. San Jose had a 3-0 series lead in the first round before the Kings stormed back to win the series in seven games, becoming the fourth NHL team to rally from such a deficit.
The Sharks stayed in their dressing room while the Kings celebrated their second championship with an on-ice ceremony starring the Stanley Cup, which was lowered from the scoreboard in a glass case.
Former Kings Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon then brought out the new banner, and the Kings raised it amid a lengthy standing ovation.
The Kings then lost on their banner night for the second time. Chicago beat Los Angeles 5-2 in January 2013.
“I thought the mood in the room was good, but it didn’t translate once the game started,” Kings defenseman Alec Martinez said. “You can’t come out like that against a hockey club of this caliber.”
Jonathan Quick stopped 23 shots for the Kings, but was replaced by Martin Jones in the third period.
Wingels put the Sharks ahead with a sharp-angled shot in the first period. Marleau then redirected Brent Burns’ shot during a power play early in the second, and Wingels scored again on a breakaway moments before Marleau caught Quick dawdling behind his net and got the puck to Nieto.
NOTES: D Brayden McNabb made his Kings debut in place of injured Jake Muzzin. Los Angeles acquired McNabb in March from Buffalo, where he played 37 games over two seasons. He beat out Jeff Schultz for a roster spot in training camp. … Sharks D Mirco Mueller looked good in his NHL debut after making the roster in training camp. The 19-year-old Swiss prospect was San Jose’s first-round pick in 2013. … Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers and middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin attended the festivities.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.