Former Kings captain and NHL all-time leading scorer Wayne Gretzky speaks to reporters at Dodger Stadium before the building of a temporary on-site rink that will play host to a game between the Ducks and Kings in January 2014.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
An iconic home of home runs and saves neatly morphed into hockey’s temporary home on a historic January night at Dodger Stadium.
Of course, the startling transformation was not clever Hollywood sleight-of-hand but the guiding hand and mind of NHL ice guru Dan Craig.
Home runs may have gotten the night off but there were plenty of saves from Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller, who stopped 36 shots as the Ducks beat the Kings, 3-0.
Hiller has four shutouts this season; this one was the 20th of his career. There was the efficiency of Hiller, and at the other end of the spectrum was the continuing struggles of the Kings, who have dropped five straight games and now trail the Ducks by 19 points in the standings.
Those were the hockey highlights and lowlights on a festive day and night at the ballpark.
This was pure Hollywood, from beginning to end, topped off by a brief fireworks display after the final buzzer.
History officially started at 7:17 p.m. when Kings center Anze Kopitar and Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf faced off at center ice in the first outdoor NHL game in Southern California.
They took the opening faceoff as ears were still ringing from the pregame musical offering from the veteran band KISS, who were on the stage in right field.
“We had the Pope here,” Dodgers legend Tom Lasorda said before the game. “We had the Beatles here. Now we have hockey here.”
You could say 54,000-plus spectators wandered into a scrambled offering at Dodger Stadium — and a hockey game broke out.
So much was so different and so wildly out of the norm for the Kings and Ducks.
But one thing remained consistent on a night best diagnosed as severe mind overload in the outfield and the stands:
The Kings’ scoring woes are serious and profound.
Indoors and outdoors.
And it wouldn’t get any better against the best team in the NHL. The Ducks scored less than three minutes into the game and took a 2-0 lead by the 8:12 mark, with two goals in their first four shots against Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
Getzlaf was interviewed after the second period, greeted by a loud chorus of boos from what appeared to be a pro-Kings crowd.
“The ice is actually pretty good,” he said, adding he was surprised by its quality.
The booing continued and Getzlaf, asked what the Ducks needed to do for the third period, replied: “We’re going to try to keep these guys quiet.”
But the game did seem to bog down in the second period after a spirited opening 20 minutes.
Scoring in the first period for the Ducks were Corey Perry (28th of the season) and Matt Beleskey (fifth). Andrew Cogliano made it 3-0 with an empty netter with 1:29 remaining. It was his 17th goal of the season.
The Kings outshot the Ducks, 20-6, in the first period and Hiller stopped Kopitar on a penalty shot at 9:46 of the first period.
Kopitar was awarded the penalty shot when he was hooked by Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy.
The Kings dominated the latter part of the first period but could not beat Hiller. “We’re down 2-0, so it’s not much fun,” Kings center Jarret Stoll said in his TV interview after the first period.
Once the hoopla died down, or quieted a bit, the game turned into a garden-variety NHL contest. Or about as garden-variety as possible with grass surrounding the rink and the presence of a beach-volleyball court in left field.
What was once considered an unthinkable proposition became reality, and widespread fears of unseasonably high temperatures never quite materialized.
“We played against a great team and we’re lucky we won,” the Ducks’ Teemu Selanne said. “But obviously everything around it was a show and entertaining.”
The temperature was 63 degrees at puck drop after a long and wandering pregame ceremony.
Included in the program was a legend from the sports world (Wayne Gretzky), legends from the broadcasting world (Hall of Famers Vin Scully and Bob Miller) and musical luminaries KISS.
Who knows? The names Gretzky, Scully, Miller and KISS may never have appeared together in the same sentence, or the same story, for that matter.
Miller and Scully together was a treat, a sight for lovers of baseball and hockey.
Scully invoked Dodgers past and present, saying: “From Koufax to Kershaw.”
And on this night he could have added: From Gretzky to Getzlaf.