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Lightning Drop Opener To Rangers, 2-1

by Lonnie Herman / Tampa Bay Lightning

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St. Louis Scores, Smith Stops 39 Shots

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost their first season opener in six seasons when they fell to the New York Rangers today by a margin of 2 -1.

The game, the first of a back-to-back series to be played in Prague, Czech Republic, was scoreless till late in the second period when New York Ranger Markus Naslund blasted past Lightning goalie Mike Smith from the left face-off circle. The score, assisted by Scott Gomez, came with less than two minutes to play in the period and culminated a period which saw the Lightning manage only 3 shots on the Ranger net.

Both teams had multiple chances to score in period one, with Mike Smith, in the Lightning net, and Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers playing in mid-season form.

Smith faced a barrage of shots, stopping 39 of 41 attempts overall, including several from point blank range and several through traffic to keep the Lightning in the game all the way.

Tampa Bay had several nice opportunities to take the early lead with two point-blank attempts by Vincent Lecavalier and a one-timer from Steven Stamkos off an excellent feed from Radim Vrbata, but Lundqvist was equal to the chances.

The Lightning tied the score early in the third period when Marty St. Louis netted his first goal of the season with a backhand shot past Lundqvist off a give-and-go worked with Lecavalier with 3:57 gone in the stanza.

10 minutes and 19 seconds later the Blueshirts went ahead for good with a power play goal by Brandon Dubinsky that deflected off the skate of Vladimir Mihalik and found the back of the Lightning net. Dan Girardi and Paul Mara earned assists. Previous to the Dubinsky goal, Tampa Bay had killed off six Ranger power play opportunities.

Although they were outshot in the contest, 41 to 21, the Lightning, thanks to outstanding work in the net by Mike Smith, were in the game until the final buzzer.

Vincent Lecavalier had six shots on goal and Matt Carle blocked four shots to lead the Lightning in both categories.

Tomorrow, the Lightning will conclude their eastern European sojourn with another game against the New York Rangers. Olaf Kolzig is tentatively scheduled to start in goal for Tampa Bay, as they attempt to gain a split with the Rangers in the series.

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