Rangers nip Lightning in Prague
Brandon Dubinsky scored on the power play with just under six minutes left in the third period to lift the New York Rangers past the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in the first game of the 2008-09 NHL regular season on Saturday.
Dubinsky, assisted by defencemen Paul Mara and Dan Girardi, notched the deciding goal at 14:16 at O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic.
"We created a lot of scoring chances and certainly could score a couple more goals with the way we were playing," Dubinsky said.
With Gary Roberts in the penalty box, Dubinsky's shot went through a maze of players and past Tampa Bay goaltender Mike Smith.
Smith made 38 saves during the contest, sprawling to the ice on several occasions to prevent further damage.
Markus Naslund scored to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead late in the second period, but could have scored on more than one other occasion. Naslund spent 12 seasons with the Vancouver Canucks before signing with New York in the off-season, a move prompted by the free-agent loss of Jaromir Jagr.
"I didn't replace Jaromir, I don't think anyone can," Naslund said. "I 'm just trying to find my game and playing to my potential."
Martin St. Louis tied the game for the Lightning early in the third and Steven Stamkos, the No. 1 overall draft pick in June, nearly put Tampa Bay ahead not long afterwards.
Stamkos sped in alone and was foiled by a glove save from Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist.
After Dubinsky scored, Lundqvist made key saves on Radim Vrbata and Vinny Prospal on a Tampa Bay power play to preserve the win.
The result spoiled the head coaching return of Barry Melrose. The Lightning made several moves in the off-season, including hiring Melrose after he had spent most of the past dozen years in the broadcast booth.
It was the first of a pair of sold-out games in Prague. Tampa Bay was the designated home team for Saturday's game, with the roles to be reversed on Sunday.
"It was a great atmosphere, the fans were really into it," Naslund said. "It was fun."
Dubinsky took the first penalty of the NHL season and it almost proved costly. Tampa Bay captain Vincent Lecavalier skated in alone but his backhand move was denied by Lundqvist.
Smith was strong at the other end, with a few breaks. Nigel Dawes shot at the goalie during a scramble, while Chris Drury skated in on a break but was stopped with a pad save.
Renney not satisfied
Rangers coach Tom Renney said the team needs to improve despite the win.
"Early in the game, certainly in the first period and at the end of the third period as well, they seemed to be able to get little bit more than we should've given them, and honestly I think we gave it to them.
"In the second period we settled down and managed the puck much better. I like the fact that we kept generating shots and offence."
Drury was named the franchise's 25th captain on Friday.
Naslund was foiled on the doorstep early in the second, as New York built up a 20-8 shots advantage.
Scott Gomez was responsible for the first goal of the game, wheeling through the neutral zone to find Naslund on the right wing. The Swede beat Smith with a wrister at the 18:09 mark of the middle frame.
Less than a minute later, Nikolai Zherdev almost put New York up 2-0 but Smith made a pad save.
Tampa Bay evened the score at 3:57 of the third, just seconds after Smith made a great stick stop on Naslund.
Lecavalier fed St. Louis in stride at the New York blue-line and he beat Dmitri Kalinin with a shifty move before lifting the puck over Lundqvist.
Dubinsky's winner finally netted the Rangers a power-play goal in their seventh opportunity. Tampa Bay went 0-for-4 with the man advantage.
Tampa Bay coach Barry Melrose said his players spent too much time in the penalty box to win.
"Seven penalties against a very good power play," he said. "Our young defence played well, but if you give the Rangers seven power plays you're going to get a goal."
The game featured a pair of longtime Ottawa Senators defencemen, now in different jerseys.
Wade Redden, who spent over 11 seasons with the Senators, played 22 minutes for the Rangers. Andrej Meszaros played 25 for Tampa Bay, and was a plus-1.
With files from the Associated Press