LONDON, England - Everyone went home happy.
The Los Angeles Kings got a split, the NHL sold out its first-ever regular-season games in Europe, British hockey fans finally saw a real NHL fight and the Anaheim Ducks? Well they were breathing a little easier.
Staring down home openers in Detroit, Columbus and Pittsburgh this week, the Stanley Cup champions were in no mood to leave England winless and it showed Sunday.
"It would have been tough going back to three home openers 0-2," said winger Ryan Getzlaf. "We know we can play now and we can move forward."
Corey Perry had two goals and an assist while Jonas Hiller looked impressive in his first NHL start as the Ducks downed the Kings 4-1 to split the opening games of the 2007-08 season with a British twist.
"It was a fun week," said Perry. "It's nice to get over here and see the different lifestyle and see different things that you may not ever see in your life.
"We'll take this week and we'll remember it for the rest of our lives."
Despite the initial misgivings of the trip overseas, both teams left feeling enriched for the experience. The Ducks in particular added unique memories after parading the Stanley Cup near London Bridge and Tower Bridge - one last hurrah for last spring's achievement before moving on.
"That's something that I'll never forget," said Perry. "And overall, the whole week and the venue here was just wonderful. You have to thank London for it."
The second straight sellout crowd at 02 Arena once again provided an electric atmosphere, fans from all over Europe and North America wearing jerseys from all 30 NHL teams as well uniforms from European clubs. One wonders if the NHL truly thought so many fans from different countries would make the trek to London.
"Walking through the subway you heard a lot of different languages," said Kings head coach Marc Crawford. "And that was unique for sure. Definitely I think everybody took notice of it at some point during the weekend."
The loudest cheer of the weekend? Not even close. The crowd of 17,239 was on its feet for an impressive tussle midway through the second period Sunday between Ducks tough guy George Parros and rugged Kings winger Scott Thornton, the latter holding his own against a bigger foe. A standing ovation rocked the 02 Arena as they made their way to the penalty box.
"It was a pretty good scrap, and the crowd was waiting for it," Parros said. "They're a hooligan crowd here. They like a good fight."
The second game of the 2007-08 season also provided a little more entertainment, the passes more crisp and the play less sloppy than Saturday's opener.
All in all, not a bad week for the NHL in the land of fish and chips. The local media coverage was minimal, Chelsea's struggles in the English Premier League dominating the scene. But the two games sold out and the league was able to reach out to fans from all over the continent.
"The facility was terrific, the teams were extremely supportive, the hospitality was wonderful and the fans welcomed us warmly," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. "Those elements combined to create a memorable experience that will factor strongly into our consideration of more such undertakings in the future."
Bettman will debrief the Ducks and the Kings in a few weeks to figure out what kind of toll - if any - the trip took on them. There's already talk the league could open next season in Prague with Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vincent Lecavalier and the Tampa Bay Lightning facing off. A source confirmed Sunday that was the preliminary plan but also stressed it was far from a done deal.
If the Penguins and Lightning do open up next season in Prague, it will once again feed the notion that the NHL could perhaps one day expand to Europe.
"It's a long way to go for regular-season games and even playoffs," said Ducks captain Chris Pronger. "To figure out how it would work logistically is above and beyond my paygrade and my brain power. We'll leave it to the smarter guys to figure out if indeed that's the way they want to go."
Chris Kunitz and Travis Moen also scored for the Ducks on Sunday, who decided to try out the 25-year-old Hiller after Ilya Bryzgalov was in goal for Saturday's 4-1 loss. Hiller, voted best goalie in the Swiss League last season, made some big saves on Kyle Calder and Brad Stuart and looked confident in earning his first career NHL victory. He stopped 22 of 23 shots.
"It's great. It's one of the goals when I was a small kid, to play in this league," said Hiller. "I really was looking forward to it and I'm happy that we could win that game."
Mike Cammalleri replied for the Kings, who also switched it up in net. Jason LaBarbera, however, didn't fare as well as 19-year-old rookie Jonathan Bernier, who on Saturday stole the show with a 26-save performance.
All it took was one loss for Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle to split up Todd Bertuzzi and Getzlaf after the pair had skated together throughout camp. Bertuzzi joined Bobby Ryan and Andy McDonald on one line Sunday while Getzlaf re-joined Perry on a combination that worked so well last season. Kunitz was the third member of that line Sunday.
"I've played with Getzy for three years now, we know where each other is on the ice," said Perry. "It was nice getting back with him."
The Ducks resembled Cup champs a little more closely, storming out of the gate and applying pressure on the Kings and going ahead 2-0 on a pair of power-play goals. Perry opened the scoring at 10:49, getting his own rebound at the side of the net and flipping it upstairs on LaBarbera. Kunitz doubled the lead at 15:19, sliding a loose puck at the side into the open net.
Anaheim came out in the second period and played keep-away from Los Angeles, leading to Perry's second goal at 2:53, an open-net one-timer after Kent Huskins' point shot came off the end boards right to Perry.
Moen then took a pass from Rob Niedermayer and roofing a shot on LaBarbera from the slot at 4:10.
The Kings finally woke up, putting together their best shift of the game with sustained pressure and it paid off when Cammalleri - already now with three goals on the season - beating Hiller from an acute angle at the side of the net at 8:57.
Notes: Ryan Carter was in for Brad May up front for Anaheim while Thornton replaced tough guy Raitis Ivanans among the Kings forwards ... Kings captain Rob Blake was slated to fly to Toronto this week to film a scene in an upcoming Mike Myers movie called "The Love Guru." ... Hiller is the fourth Swiss-born netminder to play in an NHL game after David Aebischer, Martin Gerber and Pauli Jaks. ... The Ducks flew out right after the game. They play at Detroit on Wednesday. The Kings host St. Louis on Saturday.