LONDON — The NHL opened its season on the banks of the River Thames, and as far as the Los Angeles Kings were concerned, this was hockey country.
"I love London," said Kings center Mike Cammalleri, who scored two power-play goals Saturday in a 4-1 victory over the defending champion Anaheim Ducks. "It was good to us tonight."
This was the fourth time the NHL has begun its season outside North America, with the other three in Japan (1997, 1998 and 2000). The two California teams will play the second game of their series Sunday.
"It felt like a North American hockey crowd," Cammalleri said. "There wasn't much difference — a couple of waves, like soccer, which was fun to watch."
The trip to the O2 Arena, however, was a little different from the usual drive along the congested freeways of Southern California.
"I don't remember taking a boat up a river to get to the game very often," said Kings defenseman Rob Blake, another goalscorer. "But that was our format tonight."
With the Union Jack hanging from the rafters nears the Stars and Stripes, the game at O2 Arena did not get off to the smoothest start. After the U.S. and British national anthems, the lights failed to come on. The players skated around but were told to go to the locker rooms. The lights slowly returned, and the players did as well after 10 minutes.
"I think we had a lot of time to look around right at the start when they were trying to get the lights back on," Kings coach Marc Crawford said. "I tried to soak it all in, all the different jerseys in the crowd."
Cammalleri gave the "home team" the lead by scoring with a one-timer from the slot at 8:35 of the first period, with the Kings on a two-man advantage. He added another at 1:10 of the third, tipping in a slap shot from Tom Preissing.
Blake, who played 12 seasons for the Kings before returning to the team last season, made it 2-0 at 10:15 of the second by tapping in a loose puck. Michal Handzus scored short-handed at 19:34 of the third.
Bobby Ryan scored for the Ducks on a power play at 13:09 of the final period, knocking in a rebound to beat Kings rookie goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Bernier made 26 saves.
"I don't think you could've expected a better game from a 19-year-old goaltender," Crawford said. "There was a lot of pressure tonight, and he looked like a really solid, solid goaltender. Not very many pucks bounced off of him, and he made a couple of great saves."
The Kings killed a two-man power play early in the first period, then converted when they had the same advantage. With his teammates attacking the net, Cammalleri was left alone in the slot and his shot beat goalie Ilja Bryzgalov. Lubomir Visnovsky and Alexander Frolov got the assists.
Blake added the second goal midway through the second period.
On another power play, Anze Kopitar nearly scored for the Kings after a shot from Cammalleri went across the front of goal.
Bryzgalov then stopped a shot, but the puck slipped loose and got behind him. Blake, standing in front of goal, scooped it into the net. Preissing's slap shot from the point was tipped toward goal by Cammalleri, and the puck went in off the crossbar.
Many fans came hoping to see a fight, and they finally got one in the second period. After several minor scuffles, Kings defenseman Jack Johnson and Ducks center Rob Niedermayer went at it and drew matching roughing penalties. Two smaller skirmishes came late in the third.
The Ducks, who won their first Stanley Cup last year, were playing without usual starting goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere, checking forward Samuel Pahlsson and defenseman Mathieu Schneider because of injuries.
Giguere, who had a sports hernia operation in the offseason, said he hoped to be ready to play when Ducks go to the United States for three road games — at Detroit on Wednesday, at Columbus on Friday and at Pittsburgh next Saturday. If he doesn't make the road trip, he could play in the Ducks' home opener Oct. 10 against Boston.
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle hinted earlier this week he wasn't exactly thrilled with playing his first two games of the season in London.
"We made a decision last November, December to participate in this," Carlyle said after the game. "The players voted and the managers had their chance to say yea or nay and we're living by that decision."
The Kings warmed up for the series in London by winning both games in an exhibition tournament in Austria. They have almost a week off after Sunday's game before hosting St. Louis Saturday.
The NHL decided to open in Europe to increase its overseas market. The NFL is doing something similar, with the Miami Dolphins playing the New York Giants in a regular-season game Oct. 28 at rebuilt Wembley.