PRAGUE (Reuters) - The New York Rangers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 for the second straight night on Sunday, winding up the teams’ two-game set in the Czech capital.
The weekend games were the second year running where the NHL opened its season in Europe, with games between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators also taking place in Stockholm, following matches in London to start the season last year. The Rangers, looking to improve on their 42-win season last year, walked away with two victories after a 2-1 win on Saturday, leaving the new-look Lightning pointless.
“I was excited to come and play here, and have my family see me,” said Rangers’ winger Petr Prucha, a native of Chrudim, an hour drive east of Prague.
“I was happy that we took the four points. It looks like our system is working well now.”
The Lightning got on the board first when winger Adam Hall poked in a rebound with 1:43 left in the first period.
Almost four minutes into the second period, the Rangers’ Wade Redden leveled with a power play goal on a pass from Markus Naslund before Scott Gomez put the Rangers ahead with a rebound goal with 7:48 remaining in the second.
The Lightning, which won its only Stanley Cup in 2004 but last year ended bottom of the Eastern Conference, were outshot 80-40 over the weekend despite adding some offensive punch over the offseason.
“We’re looking to make the perfect goal,” said Lightning coach Barry Melrose, who returned to behind the bench after a 13-year absence from coaching. “We got to get back to a simple mindset.”
The two teams, which between them count five Czechs among their rosters, now head back the United States for their home openers next weekend.
“It was quite an experience. We got to see two beautiful cities, and we came closer as a team,” the Rangers’ Gomez said after the game, referring to exhibition matches played in Berne.
Melrose, speaking to reporters ahead of Sunday’s game, said the matches were a chance for the many European players in the league to get in front of their home fans.
“I’m sure the NHL will continue to do it. The fans over here in Europe deserve to see their home boys play,” Melrose said.
Editing by Miles Evans