With the Los Angeles Kings
facing greater expectations from their fans in 2010-11, Ryan Smyth made sure that his club sent its customers home happy on Tuesday night.
Smyth scored twice and added an assist and Jonathan Quick
made 31 saves as the Kings were triumphant in their home opener in a 3-1 victory against the Atlanta Thrashers
at the Staples Center.
Smyth scored the tying goal and set up Jarret Stoll
's go-ahead goal in the opening minutes of the third period for the Kings, who ended an eight-year playoff drought last season and are a legitimate contender in the Western Conference this time around.
"You need to have expectations," Los Angeles coach Terry Murray said. "You need to have that inner pressure in the locker room that is going to keep you going. There's goals that we have to reach. We're young, we're growing. We're just trying to do the right thing. We took a huge step last year in growth and we know it's going to be much harder this year."
It certainly wasn't easy Tuesday night. Chris Thorburn scored for the Thrashers, who opened the three-game California swing of a four-game road trip. Thorburn scored an impressive unassisted goal in the second period, taking the puck from Brad Richardson
and splitting defensemen Davis Drewiske
and Jake Muzzin
before scoring on his own rebound.
After Smyth scored Los Angeles' first goal on a rebound, he passed ahead to Stoll for a shot that knuckleballed off Atlanta defenseman Ron Hainsey's stick and past Chris Mason with 13:50 to play.
"After the second (period), we were saying all the right things in the dressing room," Stoll said. "It was frustrating not putting any pucks in the net. We had a lot of opportunities, but they weren't going in for us. We stayed with it and got a couple of lucky ones. Mine was definitely lucky, but I'll take it and we'll definitely take the win."
Smyth iced the victory with an empty-net tally with 29.8 seconds remaining. Los Angeles will look for its third win in four games on Friday night when it hosts the Vancouver Canucks.
"I thought we stuck to the system very well and kept getting pucks in deep," Smyth said. "That's a huge effect to our team. We limit their time and space with the puck and their time in our zone and you have to give them credit for that."
Mason allowed two goals on 34 shots in the loss. The Thrashers will still have games against Anaheim and San Jose before they return home to host Buffalo on Oct. 20.
"What concerns me at times [is that] they ran some cycles against us where they opened up the points and they end up with more shots," Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay said. "But we're trying to get our team to understand that they all have to try to score goals, they have to get up ice and play an up-tempo kind of game. We're going to give up some shots until we really sort it all out, and not look for a perfect play, but run some cycles ourselves against them."
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.