LOS ANGELES – The New York Rangers briefly lost their captain, but it was the Los Angeles Kings who looked flustered in their home opener at Staples Center.
Ryan Callahan, in his season debut after offseason shoulder surgery, missed almost the entire second period with a cut in his mouth, but returned in the third and the Rangers took advantage of uncharacteristic turnovers by the Kings in a 3-1 win Monday night to give Alain Vigneault his first win as Rangers coach.
Brad Richards, who flirted with the Kings in free agency several years ago, scored twice and Ryan McDonagh got a fluky 180-foot shorthanded goal on a clear in the third as the Rangers earned their first win on the second of a season-opening nine-game road trip.
"We just played a lot more desperate hockey," Richards said. "I think we had the realization of what's ahead of us here on this road trip. You don't know if you're going to win or lose. That's not why we won. We didn't just say, 'We're going to win.' But we had a lot more battle."
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 28 saves to win the much anticipated matchup against Jonathan Quick, who made 25 saves and let in a blooper goal when he lost his stick and had the puck glance off his blocker trying to handle McDonagh's dump-in off the boards from his own hash mark.
Quick, who waved his glove in response to a mock cheer on the ensuing dump-in, bristled when asked about the play.
"You guys are writing a story on that one goal?" Quick asked reporters. "The stick fell out of my hand. I tried to stop it with my blocker."
It was a much lighter postgame for Vigneault, who downplayed his first win and liked the games he got from Richards and Rick Nash. Nash put six shots on goal with two takeaways and three blocked shots.
"I thought he was all right," Vigneault said about Nash with a laugh. "What I liked about his game tonight – the turnovers he was able to create [and] the amount of time that that line spent in the other team's end tonight. Wearing the D's down, wearing the other team down, and when they lost the puck, they were quick to get on their horse and come back and help our defense."
Los Angeles prides itself on a solid defensive game but it was charged with 17 giveaways, including three each by defensemen Willie Mitchell and Slava Voynov.
"I think there's execution issues, obviously, when players have the puck on their stick and give it to the other team," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said.
Callahan didn't waste time testing out his shoulder. He hit Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr on the first shift of the game. It was a scary moment, though, when Callahan lay prone before he skated to the dressing room after he collided with center Anze Kopitar in L.A.'s zone 32 seconds into the second.
Callahan actually was struck by Kopitar's stick on the play. He had stitches below his lower lip.
"It's tough," Callahan said. "It was accidental, obviously. I think he was following through or turning. I went to hit him and caught his stick first."
L.A. managed to cut its deficit to 2-1 after two periods on a terrific forecheck by Mike Richards, who forced Dan Girardi into a giveaway in New York's zone and fed Jake Muzzin for a wrist shot past Lundqvist at 12:11.
It was otherwise a forgettable second period for Los Angeles. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty spent six minutes in the penalty box and the power play failed to record a shot on goal. Doughty was caught hooking Derek Stepan at the right point as the latter took the puck up ice.
"That's not a team turnover – that's a top-player turnover," Sutter said. "And Muzzin, who's going to have to learn not to turn the puck over, if he wants to play. Period."
A series of inexplicable Kings turnovers led to a 2-0 lead for the Rangers. Justin Williams lost the puck behind his net before Voynov made a blind pass that was intercepted. Moments later, Kyle Clifford couldn't collect the puck near New York's bench and Richards broke in on goal and had his shot slide in off Voynov's stick at 10:46.
The Rangers' forecheck troubled the Kings at times and it paid off in the first period when Doughty turned the puck over while pressured by Stepan. Nash took the initial shot from the left side and Richards grabbed the loose puck and shot it in past a scrambling Quick for a 1-0 lead at 13:32. It was the third straight game that L.A. allowed the first goal.
"Our 5-on-5 play needs to improve," Williams said. "It's non-existent right now. Certainly we need to get dirty, we need to become as a whole, put our work before skill and get dirty and greasy."
Rangers forward Taylor Pyatt missed a portion of the opening period after he was hit with the puck.