PHILADELPHIA (AP) — From captain to King, Mike Richards again left Philadelphia in triumph.
Richards starred in his return to Philadelphia for the first time since his shocking trade, assisting on Jack Johnson’s winning power-play goal at 1:39 of overtime to lift the Los Angeles Kings past the Flyers 3-2 on Saturday night.
Richards faked a shot that fooled Flyers forward Claude Giroux, then had his slapper redirected by Johnson past Ilya Bryzgalov to spoil Philadelphia’s perfect start. Richards raised his arms in celebration and was mobbed behind the net by his still-new Kings teammates.
“It took me a second to realize it went in,” Richards said. “It was a broken play and I was tying to find a lane to shoot and saw JJ at the last second.”
A former Flyers captain, Richards hit the ice against his former teammates for the first time since he was traded in June. He heard mostly cheers during his pregame introduction and a huge ovation when the Flyers thanked him on the big screen for his years of service.
The goodwill ended soon after and he was booed each time he touched the puck.
“It was easy once I touched the ice,” Richards said. “I felt comfortable out there. I just played hockey.”
Richards did plenty of winning in Philadelphia, even leading the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals in 2010.
When the Flyers decided to transform the roster after they followed the finals run with a second-round exit in 2011, Richards and Jeff Carter were traded within 30 minutes of each other.
“He was very anxious and it was fitting he makes a great play at the end,” said Kings coach Terry Murray.
Justin Williams scored two goals for the Kings and Jonathan Quick was stout in goal with 32 saves.
Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk was whistled for tripping in the final moments of regulation, leading to the power-play attempt for Los Angeles at the start of overtime.
It was a furious end to the third that allowed Richards to star again at the Wells Fargo Center.
Williams scored on a rebound off his own backhand to beat Bryzgalov with 7:25 left in the third for his second goal of the game and a 2-1 lead.
Richards was a helpless spectator in the penalty box after he was whistled for hooking.
The Flyers pounced and Matt Carle scored the tying goal when he fired one from the circle past Quick 54 seconds later.
More Flyers fans than usual, many wearing a Richards Flyers jersey, pressed along the gate outside the arena waiting for his arrival. Some fans asked each other if they thought Richards would be booed. He wasn’t, at least, not at first.
Richards received loud cheers amid a smattering of boos when he was introduced as the starting center.
He received a rousing ovation in the first period when the Flyers flashed a message on the videoboard that read: “Thank you, Mike Richards, for all your contributions and service to the Flyers organization and our fans.”
Richards deserved the warm welcome from the 19,644 fans after his solid career in the orange and black.
Richards spent the past three seasons as team captain. He scored 133 goals and had 349 points in 453 games since making his debut with the Flyers in 2005.
He had no desire to leave and was “shocked” when he learned of the deal.
Richards needed time to regroup and couldn’t fully come to terms with the trade until he made his first visit to Los Angeles.
Richards, once viewed as the face of the franchise, was traded June 23 for forwards Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a second-round pick. He wears No. 10 instead of 18 and is no longer a captain.
He was a perfect fit with Flyers West. Former teammate Simon Gagne is on the team. John Stevens, his former head coach in Philadelphia, is now an assistant. Murray was an assistant under Stevens when Richards was there. Kings assistant general manager Ron Hextall was inducted into the Flyers Hall of Fame in 2008 and is one of the greatest goalies in team history.
The Kings lost defenseman Drew Doughty to an undisclosed upper-body injury after a punishing shoulder-to-chest hit by Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo in the first period. Kings forward Dustin Penner came to the aid of his teammate and started a fight with Rinaldo only 24 seconds into the game.
“It was a clean hit. That’s hockey,” Rinaldo said. “I don’t mind fighting after a nice hit like that. It’s fun.”
Doughty returned for a shift but was not on the bench in the second period. The Kings later ruled him out of the game with the injury and said he will miss seven to 10 days.
The Kings are ready to head home after a whirlwind start of the season. They opened in Europe for an exhibition and played their first two regular-season games in Stockholm and Berlin before playing two games on the East Coast on the way back to California.
The Kings play their home opener Tuesday.
“It’s been a long time. We’ve been in Germany and Sweden. We’ve been in almost every time zone since the start of training camp,” said Williams, a former Flyer. “So it’ll be nice to get home. I know everyone is looking forward to it.”
After the excitement of the Penner-Rinaldo fight, the Flyers gave their fans more reason to roar when Danny Briere scored his first goal of the season moments after the Kings killed a 5-on-3 power play. Jaromir Jagr’s perfect pass across the crease found Briere in front of the net for the open look.
Williams tied it midway though the period with an assist from Gagne.
Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger seemed briefly shaken in the first when he was slashed on his right hand by Kings forward Dustin Brown.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)