|Daniel Briere, center, spoiled Mike Keenan's debut behind the Flames' bench by scoring two goals in Philadelphia's 3-2 win.|
Keenan’s Calgary Flames climbed out of an early two-goal hole against Philadelphia, only to give up a late goal to Daniel Briere, the Flyers’ big offseason addition, in a 3-2 loss that spoiled his return to coaching.
The Flames came out lifeless under their new coach, allowing goals to Briere and Mike Knuble in the first eight minutes.
But Briere, who signed a big free-agent contract with the Flyers after scoring 95 points with Buffalo last season, took Simon Gagne’s lead pass, went in alone and beat Miikka Kiprusoff with 1:48 remaining in regulation to spoil Keenan’s first game behind the bench since Nov. 8, 2003, with the Florida Panthers. Keenan had been out of hockey since Sept. 3, 2006, when he resigned as the Panthers’ GM.
''We did a great job of getting back in the game and we kept coming in the second and third and eventually we got the equalizer,'' Flames captain Jarome Iginla said. ''It's a tough way to lose, but we have to look at ourselves and know that we can't spot teams a lead like that and have a start like that.''
The Flyers were Keenan’s first stop in a career that has seen him serve as a coach or general manager with eight NHL teams. He led Philadelphia to the Stanley Cup Final in 1985 and 1987, losing both times to the Edmonton Oilers.
Flames GM Darryl Sutter, an assistant under Keenan in the early 1990s, hired his old boss this summer after last spring’s first-round playoff loss under Jim Playfair, who was demoted to the role of associate coach.
"I expect a lot. I don't think there's anything wrong with that," Keenan said before the opener. "If you have high expectations, if you raise the bar for the players I think they'll deliver and they'll push themselves to be better.
The Flyers signed Briere to an eight-year, $52 million contract this summer after finishing last in the overall standings for the first time in team history.
''We're trying to create a new identity for ourselves and we don't want to talk about what happened last year,” Briere said.
''It was pretty cool, but it's not just about me. It's about the team, but there's no doubt that personally it feels great to help your team and doing your part for a big win like tonight.”
Rangers 5, Panthers 2
Briere wasn’t the only ex-Sabre who was a hit in his first game with his new team. Chris Drury, who grew up in a suburb of New York City, said signing with the Rangers this summer was a dream come true. Drury lived up to his reputation as one of the NHL’s most clutch players with the game-winning goal in his Madison Square Garden debut.
Drury, a 37-goal scorer with Buffalo last season, set up Michal Rozsival’s goal 37 seconds into the game, then scored the game-winner at 8:46 of the third period. That goal highlighted a rally that saw the Rangers score four times in less than six minutes to overcome a 2-1 deficit.
Drury ended up with a goal and two assists, delighting a sellout crowd that included his parents as the Rangers won their third straight season-opener – something they hadn’t done in 50 years.
Senators 3, Maple Leafs 2
The Battle of Ontario continues to be one-sided.
One night after the Senators beat the Maple Leafs in Toronto, they did it again in Ottawa before a sellout crowd of 19,857 at Scotiabank Place, extending their domination of the Leafs over the past two-plus seasons to 14-2-2.
Daniel Alfredsson’s second goal of the game, a power-play tally with 4:59 left in regulation, gave the Senators the home-and-home sweep.
"I didn't have much to shoot at, but I was able to put it in the corner," Alfredsson said of the shot that beat Vesa Toskala, who made his debut in goal for the Leafs.
Alfredsson also scored in the first period, as did Dany Heatley, who scored twice in Toronto on Wednesday and had the game-winner in OT.
|Vincent Lecavalier scored twice in Tamps Bay's 3-1 win over New Jersey.
“He's the best player in the league," Devils goalie Martin Brodeur said of Lecavalier. "He got a couple of quality chances and beared down on it."
After Brian Gionta put the Devils ahead with the only goal of the first period, Lecavalier tied the game midway through the second, then converted Vaclav Prospal’s pass for the game-winner. Prospal hit the empty net with 58 seconds remaining. The third member of the Bolts’ big line, Martin St. Louis, had three assists.
"The game breakers took over," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said.
The game was the first of nine in a row on the road for the Devils, who won’t play their home opener until Oct. 27, when they open the new Prudential Center.
Predators 4, Avalanche 0
Nashville lost a lot of talent over the summer. But on opening night, the Predators looked every bit as good as the team that finished last season with 110 points, as new No. 1 goalie Chris Mason stopped 35 shots and Jason Arnott scored twice before a near-capacity crowd at the Sommet Center.
"We have read that our team is not going to score as many goals as last season," Arnott said of the Predators, who lost forwards Paul Kariya and Scott Hartnall as well as high-scoring defenseman Kimmo Timonen during the offseason. "We know we have guys in this team who can score. But it is a combination of everybody having to contribute."
Wild 1, Blackhawks 0
Minnesota’s young goaltender trumped Chicago’s kid forward as the Wild stayed perfect in season-openers at home.
|Niklas Backstrom didn't allow a goal on 27 shots in the Wild's 1-0 win.
'He played as good as he could play. You could say that he won this game for us,'' coach Jacques Lemaire said.
More painful for the Hawks is the potential loss of Martin Havlat, last season’s top scorer. The speedy forward, whose career has been marked by a series of injuries, hurt his shoulder on a punch in a scrum late in the third period. Coach Denis Savard said Havlat was injured trying to protect himself, and Havlat – who was sent for X-rays – was wearing a sling. He will have an MRI on the shoulder Friday to determine the severity of the injury.
Oilers 3, Sharks 2, SO
It’s a whole new season in Edmonton, where the young Oilers are trying to erase the memory of last season’s collapse that saw them win just twice in their last 20 games. A shootout win over the powerful Sharks is a good way to start.
The game was scoreless for 40 minutes, then turned into a goal-fest in the third period. San Jose’s Patrick Marleau scored 26 seconds into the third period, but Edmonton took the lead on goals by Tom Gilbert and Kyle Brodziak. Thornton scored with Edmonton defenseman Sheldon Souray in the box and San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov on the bench for a sixth attacker.
' 'It's a great story when you have a lot of young guys here and helping,'' Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. ''Now we just have to see how substantive it is. Those guys made plays, and it was good to see that they didn't get caught defensively.''
Coyotes 3, Blues 2
Another year, another winless opener for the Blues.
Phoenix got third-period goals 12 seconds apart from Mike York and rookie Daniel Winnick to take a 3-0 lead, then hung on to extend St. Louis’ winless streak in season-openers to 10 games. The Blues are 0-6-4 since beating Colorado to start the 1996-97 season.
Keith Ballard scored midway through the second period for the Coyotes. Keith Tkachuk and Brad Boyes had goals for St. Louis. Rookie defenseman Eric Johnson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft, made his NHL debut and assisted on Boyes’ goal.