SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Shootout started with a celebration of Los Angeles Kings forward Trevor Lewis, the native Salt Laker who became the first Utahn to win the Stanley Cup in 2012.
The one-time Brighton High student has celebrated the highest honor in North American hockey in his hometown, and the Kings celebrated him and his city through several pregame ceremonies and video production.
But his production on the ice was even better.
Tyler Toffoli scored twice, and Lewis added a third-period assist to help the Kings pull away from Vancouver 4-1 in front of 12,367 fans Monday night at Vivint SmartHome Arena in the first NHL preseason game in Salt Lake City since 2008.
“It got pretty loud out there, and looking around seeing a lot of familiar faces out there, it was fun,” Lewis said. “We got to come a couple of days early, to see some people, and kind of showed the guys around Utah a bit.
“Tonight was a big win for us. It was a lot of fun.”
Toffoli opened the scoring, giving LA a 1-0 lead with 5:15 left in the first period. The forward redirected a pass from Kyle Clifford down the middle of the chute for the early lead after several stoppages for malfunctions on the ice that took the arena crews several minutes to clear.
When Toffoli’s goal hit the back of the net, the crowd erupted as if the game were played in the friendly confines of the Staples Center — not 688 miles away in downtown Salt Lake.
Sam Gagner evened the scoreline just over a minute into the second period, sliding one inside the near pipe to the delight of a handful of Canucks fans in the crowd.
But the lead wouldn’t last long. Just four minutes later, Toffoli doubled his tally with a slick draw between the legs of a Vancouver defenseman and past Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom to give the Kings a 2-1 lead with 14:56 left in the second.
Anze Kopitar and Dion Phaneuf scored just 40 seconds apart early in the third period to help the Kings pull away, 4-1. Lewis assisted on the second goal to Phaneuf, just 3:57 into the final period.
Salt Lake hockey fans even got to see a true NHL-style brawl that was broken up by the officials with 2:33 remaining in the game.
“We struggled a little bit the first few games, and we needed to have a good one tonight,” Lewis said. “But I thought we really improved and had a good game tonight.”
Both Lewis and fellow Utahn Daniel Brickley were in the starting lineup when the Kings first took the ice, though the first period was slow to start moving with several technical difficulties involving the goal post’s secure placement on the makeshift rink.
Even that hardly distracted from the night, Brickley said.
“It was nice to get the start in front of my hometown, and to get the win as well,” said Brickley, who prepped at Skyline High. “It was electric. The fans were really involved. I even caught myself looking at the Jumbotron, watching the ‘Kiss Cam’ or the ‘Dance Cam,’ or whatever. It seemed like they had a lot of fun.”
Lewis is entering his 11th season in the NHL. The 31-year-old from Cottonwood Heights went to Brighton High for one season, but moved to Colorado as a teenager to take advantage of the state’s increased participation in youth hockey.
The gamble paid off, as he went on to be the No. 17 pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the Kings, and he’s played 600 regular-season games — all with Los Angeles.
Lewis’ career has taken him from junior hockey to the highest levels of the sport in North America’s top league.
But playing in front of his hometown crowd was special, he admitted.
“It’s been a long time since I played here,” said Lewis, who owns 61 career goals with 78 assists. “I got to play a couple of games during the lockout for the Grizzlies, and it’s cool to have a lot of family and friends in the stands.
“I think I had to get 30 tickets, and a bunch of people bought tickets, too. It’ll be pretty busy after the game.”
Brickley hasn’t been around nearly as long, but the 23-year-old newly-signed defenseman won two club hockey championships at Skyline High before going on to an all-conference career at Minnesota State.
“It’s pretty special; to be back and playing in front of my family and friends has been something special,” said Brickley, who signed with the Kings as a free agent this offseason. “It’s not easy. It’s really tough to get here, and once you are here, it’s tough to stay. I have a lot of respect for the guys who play 10-plus years in the league. It’s a grind to get here.”
Lewis and Brickley have known each other most of their lives, and Brickley learned to skate at a rink in Cottonwood Heights — the same rink across the street from Lewis’ house where his own father first took him at 2 years old.
Both native Utahns started in the preseason exhibition that was a decade in the making.
“It’s pretty wild to think that we are on the same NHL team, having both been from Utah,” Brickley said. “He’s a real character guy, hard working, and he’s someone to look up to.”
They’ll both be back, too. The Salt Lake Shootout is contracted to be played at Vivint Arena through 2020.