Los Angeles Kings defeat Vegas Golden Knights in front of an impressive 'Frozen Fury' crowd

Vegas Golden Knights right wing Keegan Kolesar (55) tries to shoot on Los Angeles Kings goalie Garret Sparks during an NHL exhibition game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.

Vegas Golden Knights right wing Keegan Kolesar (55) tries to shoot on Los Angeles Kings goalie Garret Sparks during an NHL exhibition game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)


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Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — It was hockey night in Salt Lake City as Vivint Arena transformed into an NHL showcase for a preseason matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Los Angeles Kings.

While the Kings were the designated home team, the crowd was full of the black and gold colors of the Knights as they drew a dominant turnout in a nearly sold out venue. While Knights fans showed up in greater numbers, the Kings sent the majority of the crowd home disappointed in a 3-1 win.

Thursday matchup is the first of a three-game contract where Vivint Arena opened its doors to hockey fans for a special NHL preseason presentation.

Brian Borchers, a more than 50-year Los Angeles Kings fan and California native who was in attendance Thursday, said the game was not the same as watching at the Old Forum Arena in Inglewood, California, but said he was ecstatic to be back at an NHL event and hopes to see Salt Lake City become the home of a future NHL team down the road.

"I think this is awesome," Borchers said. "I know they're trying to expand the league, which they should do, and we've had a few (expansion teams), obviously Vegas a couple years ago and now Seattle. (The NHL has) been trying to do something up here and obviously this game shows it's viable. They've got the stands, the arena, and the fan base, so it would be great to have a team here.

"We've been hoping and watching," Borchers added. "When they gave Seattle theirs, we were wondering if Salt Lake was going to be in the running for it, so we'll see."

While Borchers continues to hope for an NHL team to one day call Salt Lake City home, he could at least enjoy watching his favorite team excel as the Kings brought the intensity right from the puck drop.

Through the first few minutes of the initial period, it was all Los Angeles as they dominated puck possession and quickly made the Golden Knights pay. Following a poor turnover by Vegas in their own end, Kings defenseman Austin Strand fired a shot on net from just outside the right face-off circle.

While it was originally saved by the body of Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner, the rebound trickled right in front and was cleaned up by Los Angeles forward Brendan Lemieux who tucked it into the back of the net. The goal officially opened up the scoring and gave the Kings an early 1-0 lead with 18:15 remaining in the first period.

After the goal, the Kings continued to dominate possession, creating chance after chance and outshot the Knights 10-7 after the first period; however, Vegas mustered a little momentum through the final few minutes on a few great chances. For the Kings, though, net minder Garret Sparks was on top of his game and saved a breakaway chance by Vegas forward Chandler Stephenson, but also kept a clean first-period sheet despite two Knights power plays.

Los Angeles Kings left wing Arthur Kaliyev (34) celebrates his goal against the Vegas Golden Knights during an NHL exhibition game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.
Los Angeles Kings left wing Arthur Kaliyev (34) celebrates his goal against the Vegas Golden Knights during an NHL exhibition game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Into the second period, the Kings widened their lead early on as forward Lias Anderson and defenseman Matt Roy found themselves on a two-on-one odd man rush inside the Knights' zone.

After bringing the puck up the right side, Roy made a centering pass to Anderson who deked right, forcing Lehner to overcommit and then put it into the open net with his forehand. The goal gave Los Angeles a 2-0 lead with 18:12 remaining in the second period.

As the period continued, it was obvious that the Knights were simply outmatched. They failed to create threatening chances and even struggled on a few man-advantages. The only time the offense seemed to have any sort of fluidity was when Vegas forward and star Max Pacioretty was on the ice.

On multiple occasions, Pacioretty wowed fans with several between the legs stick handles and even a few impressive shots. But despite the creativity, the Knights still trailed 2-0 after two periods of play.

Regardless of his team trailing, Canada native and Knights fan Dustin Byam said he appreciated the opportunity to watch NHL hockey. Now a resident of Utah, the hockey junky rarely gets the opportunity to watch his favorite sport, so the game meant a lot to him.

"I think it's really cool to have an NHL game here in Salt Lake. Growing up in Canada, it seemed like everyone was a hockey fan," Byam said. "Living in Utah there is definitely a noticeable difference in hockey interest, so it's great to see the NHL trying to grow the sport here, especially with the Golden Knights being so close.

"Growing up I attended a lot of Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes games," he added. "The atmosphere here tonight was impressive. It's great to see so many hockey fans come out to watch teams that aren't from their own city. The atmosphere here is really similar to the atmosphere at an Arizona Coyotes game, but not quite on the level of a Calgary Flames game."

Fans take a photo prior to an NHL exhibition game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.
Fans take a photo prior to an NHL exhibition game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Even though Byam was unable to experience the atmosphere of a Calgary game, the Knights finally gave him something to cheer about in the third period.

Just a few minutes in, the Kings committed a poor turnover on their own end, which found the stick of Nicolas Roy, who passed it across the slot to a streaking Daniil Miormanov. After quickly collecting the puck just outside the right face-off circle, Miormanov fired a wrist shot just over the left shoulder of Garret Sparks off the crossbar and down.

Vivint Arena erupted as Knights fans cheered with excitement — their team finally found the back of the net and closed the gap to just a one-goal game.

The excitement would be short lived as Derrick Pouliot committed a high-sticking penalty at the 11:38 mark and the Kings quickly made Vegas pay.

On the man-advantage, Arthur Kaliyev stuffed a rebound home after the puck fell right in front of the goal, ricocheting off a shot from the point by Quinton Byfield. This would effectively seal the game as the Knights simply ran out of time and the Kings emerged with a 3-1 victory.

Following regulation, the two teams put on a penalty shootout for the fans; however, it wasn't much of a show as Kings forward Phillip Danault was the only one of six shooters to score. The Kings came away with a 1-0 victory in the shootout.

Knights goaltender Dylan Ferguson, who replaced Lehner for the third period, said he was impressed with the turnout and the positive reactions from the fans.

"It was cool. My family are huge basketball fans so before the game they were messaging me to look up in the rafters at Karl Malone and guys like that, so it was cool to be in a building like this," Ferguson said. "It was a lot of fun and (the crowd) were loud so we had a good time.

"Obviously the passion is there," he added. "Last year I got to play here against the Utah Grizzlies, not in this rink, but at the Maverik Center, and those fans are great, too. So if the opportunity to expand arises somewhere I feel like it would be a good fit."

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