The Rangers weren't as good in Philadelphia as they were in Prague or New York. But they were still good enough to be perfect after four games.
The revamped Rangers improved to 4-0-0 by scoring four times in the first period and holding off the Flyers 4-3 on Saturday night to spoil Philadelphia's home opener. The Rangers beat Tampa Bay twice in the Bridgestone NHL Premiere 2008 series in Prague and defeated Chicago in their own home opener on Friday.
"We've won every way," center Scott Gomez said. "We've won with special teams. We've won on the road. We've held the lead. We've come from behind. We're learning how to win."
They're learning fast. The Rangers haven't started a season with four consecutive wins since 1983-84, when they won their first five games — the best start in team history. They can match that by beating New Jersey at home on Monday.
Alaska governor and hockey mom Sarah Palin got a mixed reaction when she dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff. But there was nothing but booing for the home side after the Rangers beat Martin Biron four times on 14 shots in the first 16:13.
Nikolai Zherdev started the onslaught with his second goal in two nights, beating Biron on a rebound at 4:12. Fourth-liner Blair Betts doubled the lead at 5:15 when he was left all alone in the slot. Fredrik Sjostrom made it 3-0 at 8:30 on a wraparound, and Michal Rozsival's goal with 3:47 sent Biron to the bench in favor of Antero Niittymaki.
"I was just trying to change the momentum and give us a chance to regroup," Flyers coach John Stevens said.
They did regroup after the first intermission. Scott Hartnell's shorthanded goal 3:13 into the second gave them some life, and Simon Gagne beat Flyer-killer Steve Valiquette at 16:09 to make it 4-2.
"There was a bit of a lapse in the second period for all of us," Valiquette said. "I'm sure we'll have a meeting about it tomorrow.”
With the sellout crowd at the Wachovia Center now solidly behind the home team, Mike Richards scored off a perfect pass by Daniel Briere 5:38 into the third period to cut the deficit to one. The Flyers had a chance to tie, but were unable to convert on 93 seconds of a two-man advantage midway through the period.
"The 5-on-3 was a turning point," said Valiquette, who had three of his five wins last season against Philadelphia, along with a 1.04 goals-against average. "I knew that was going to be the game for us."
Valiquette held on for his first win since beating the Flyers on March 2 as the Rangers won for the 11th time in their last 13 visits to Philadelphia.
"Maybe it's watching the 'Rocky' movie before the game or 'Philadelphia Freedom' by Elton John," Valiquette said. "There's a few landmark songs and movies you can watch before you come to Philly to get you excited to play here. This is obviously a great city and this is a great building to play in."
Stevens was happy with the fact that his team didn't roll over after a bad start.
"I certainly liked the effort to get back," Stevens said. "It just seemed like we were a step behind."
The Rangers made several major changes during the summer, and Valiquette said he's impressed at how quickly the team has come together.
"I'm excited about the way we've been coming together so far," said the goaltender, who made 25 saves in his first start of the season and now has half of his 10 NHL career victories against Philadelphia. "Obviously, winning helps that."
Canadiens 6, Maple Leafs 1 | VIDEO
Getting blown out by their biggest rival was decidedly not what the Maple Leafs had in mind for their home opener. But it was a great way for Alex Tanguay to show what he can do for the Montreal Canadiens.
Tanguay had a goal and three assists in Montreal's four-goal second period as the Canadiens found the offense they lacked in a 2-1 shootout loss at Buffalo on Friday night.
Both Tanguay and the Canadiens face high expectations — which is why he was happy to get his first goal and points in a Habs uniform out of the way so soon.
"It's nice before we get home," said Tanguay, who was acquired from Calgary on June 21. "I know how the media in Montreal can be as far as pressure's concerned, and you guys are probably familiar with that here too in Toronto. "It's a nice game for us."
The Leafs looked nothing like the disciplined team that opened its season with a 3-2 victory at Detroit on Thursday. Coach Ron Wilson has been preaching the need to stay out of the penalty box, but his team didn't listen in the second period — and paid the price.
After goals by Roman Hamrlik and Alex Kovalev 1:39 apart midway through the first period gave the Canadiens a 2-0 lead, Montreal turned the game into a rout with some help from the Leafs.
Matt Stajan took a double minor for high-sticking at 1:50, and the Canadiens made the Leafs pay twice. Tanguay assisted on Sergei Kostitsyn's goal at 2:50, then scored his first as a Canadien at 4:15 — and the rout was on.
"We took way too many penalties and our penalty killing didn't work," Leafs forward Niklas Hagman said. "Up against a team like that, if we start running around, they're going to make plays."
With rookie defenseman Luke Schenn in the box for delay of game, Tanguay set up Kostitsyn's second power-play goal of the night at 8:18.
"We put him on the point on the power play — he has good vision," Montreal coach Guy Carbonneau said. "He went to the net a couple times and got a bunch of points. Hopefully, he'll keep going."
Jason Blake's power-play goal at 11:02 got the Leafs on the board, but Guillaume Latendresse answered 22 seconds later to restore the Canadiens' five-goal lead.
"I knew they would be ready to play," Wilson said of the Canadiens. Montreal plays at Philadelphia on Monday before returning to the Bell Centre for its home opener against Boston on Wednesday. Tanguay is using the season-opening trip to bond with his teammates.
"Being on the road, you get to go eat with the guys and be with the guys a little bit more," he said. "It's new for me, and I'm hoping that I can help the team."
Capitals 4, Blackhawks 2 | VIDEO
The Capitals came into their home opener off a stunning loss in Atlanta on Friday and quickly gave up two goals to the Blackhawks. But a complete team effort — including Brooks Laich's go-ahead goal with 4:27 left in regulation — sent the sellout crowd at the Verizon Center home happy.
The Caps raised their banner for winning the Southeast Division last season — then fell behind 26 seconds into the game when Kris Versteeg came unchallenged over the blue line and beat Jose Theodore. Rookie Jack Skille's first NHL goal at 11:41 made it 2-0.
But the rest of the night belonged to the Capitals. Matt Bradley scored at 13:26 to cut the deficit to one, and Alex Ovechkin got his first of the season 5:07 into the second period.
The reigning Hart Trophy winner got the puck back near Washington's blue line, then moved in and used retreating Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell as a screen before shooting around Campbell and past Nikolai Khabibulin. He then skated toward a corner and jumped into the glass, slamming his gloves.
"Look at him and how he plays — he wins his battles. That's why he's a star player," said Chicago coach Denis Savard, whose team fell to 0-2-0 after its second loss in two nights. "You want to be a star player, you do it every night, not just once in a while."
The game was still tied when Alexander Semin carried the puck into the Chicago zone. Laich, knocked to the ice, somehow got his blade on the puck and tipped it past Khabibulin, who also was down.
"I couldn't tell if it crossed the line," Khabibulin said.
Ovechkin sealed the victory at 18:24, beating Khabibulin with a slap shot from between the circles that drew chants of "M-V-P!" from a sellout crowd of 18,277.
Before they got hot last season, the Caps had been accustomed to playing in front of a half-empty home arena. This time, the players were greeted by a full house decked out mostly in red shirts.
"Fabulous," Washington coach Boudreau said. "They were ready to rock right from the beginning, and I'm glad at the end we gave them something to cheer about."
Islanders 5, Blues 2 | VIDEO
The Islanders played well in their season-opener on Friday but could only get one puck past Martin Brodeur in a 2-1 loss at New Jersey. Happily, neither the Devils nor Brodeur were at the Nassau Coliseum for the Isles' home opener — and they wasted little time jumping on the Blues and goaltender Chris Mason to give new coach Scott Gordon his fist NHL win.
The Islanders scored four times in the first period — a feat they accomplished in only one period last season — as they scored five times in a home opener for the first time since 1996. Joey MacDonald, playing for the second consecutive night in place of starter Rick DiPietro, made 24 saves and earned the game's No. 1 star. DiPietro is still recovering from hip and knee surgery, though he dressed as the backup.
The Islanders stunned even their own fans by racing out to a 4-1 lead after one period, capped by Andy Hilbert's shorthanded tally with 46 seconds left. They totally dominated the opening 20 minutes, swarming the Blues and forcing the play.
"It was the way we played," said Gordon, last season's AHL coach of the year. "Hopefully that's going to be our identity as a team and that's how we're going to play.
"We haven't done anything more than earn two points, but we're headed in the right direction."
Mike Comrie, Trent Hunter and Sean Bergenheim also scored during the first-period outburst, making life easier for MacDonald.
"It gives you a little more confidence and a little bit of cushion, but you can't get too relaxed because a team like that has got some firepower," he said of the early cushion.
Brad Boyes' goal in the first period made it 3-1 and Keith Tkachuk got his third power-play goal in two nights to cut the margin to 4-2 in the third. Bill Guerin's empty-netter sealed the win.
"We came out flat-footed," said Mason, who wasn't sharp on a couple of the first-period goals but got little help from his defense. "We were outplayed in the first period. They were fired up. They came out and threw a lot of pucks at us. They had a lot of energy. After the first, we settled down, but we were embarrassed with our effort in the first."
Panthers 3, Thrashers 2 | VIDEO
Another new coach got his first NHL win when David Booth scored at 3:54 of overtime, giving Peter DeBoer a win in his second NHL game.
"Speed, enthusiasm, the energy he plays with every night, he's a great player," DeBoer said of Booth, who scored twice and has three goals in Florida's first two games. "Guys like that are almost the heartbeat of your team. They get over the boards and they can change the momentum with their energy and their work ethic. Those guys are easy to coach."
"This is the best game he's played for us since I've been here. I thought he was one of our best players tonight." – Panthers head coach Peter DeBoer on Richard Zednik
Booth's winning goal also had a little bit of luck. Nathan Horton attempted to pass in front of the net, but the puck bounced to goalie Kari Lehtonen and he couldn't handle it. When the puck got past Atlanta center Eric Perrin, Booth poked it into an open net.
"It was just laying there," Booth said, "so I just tried to get my stick on it."
Booth's first goal tied the score 1-1 at 11:14 of the first period. He took a centering pass from Stephen Weiss and fired a wrist shot past Lehtonen.
Weiss also scored for the Panthers, and Richard Zednik — playing in his first regular season game at BankAtlantic Center since his neck was slashed last February — had two assists.
"This is the best game he's played for us since I've been here," DeBoer said of Zednik, who received a loud ovation during pregame introductions. "I thought he was one of our best players tonight."
Slava Kozlov and Jason Williams scored for Atlanta, which beat Washington 7-4 at home on Friday. The Thrashers opened last season with six losses.
"I think that if we'd gotten four [points] it would have been better, but obviously we come in to another team's building and sneak a point out, especially in our own division, that's pretty good," said Atlanta coach John Anderson, who got his first NHL win one night earlier.
Devils 2, Penguins 1, OT | VIDEO
New Jersey kept shooting at Marc-Andre Fleury, finally got a bounce late in regulation and went home with two points when Zach Parise scored with 37.6 seconds left in overtime.
Despite outshooting Pittsburgh by more than 3-to-1, the Devils were less than three minutes away from being shut out before Patrik Elias' no-look pass hit Pittsburgh defenseman Hal Gill and deflected into the net at 17:31.
"We outplayed them for the majority of the game. We got a lucky bounce on Patrik's goal," Parise said.
The Penguins were working a 3-on-2 break in overtime when Travis Zajac came up with the puck and made a long lead pass to Parise, who streaked down the left side and ripped a shot from inside the left circle that caught the long side as Fleury went down.
"I saw him [Zajac] getting ready to flip it up and it was a really smart play by him to think of that," Parise said. "I don't know if it hit his [Fleury's] shoulder, but it went off the far post."
Though the Devils outshot Pittsburgh 49-15, the Penguins nearly won their home opener behind Fleury's heroics and a first-period power-play goal by newcomer Miroslav Satan, who picked up a pinballed deflection and hit the half-empty net at 11:52.
"When you get that many shots, you could get discouraged but we didn't," Brian Rolston said of the Devils, who were shut out a club-record 10 times last season. "We stayed with it."
Fleury played an exceptional game, making key save after key save as the Devils held a 20-2 edge in shots in the third period and a 35-6 advantage in the second and third periods.
"This was tough, tough to swallow. We just had that one goal and to give up that goal to tie the game and then (have them) come up with the win, that was a tough one," Fleury said.
Martin Brodeur earned his 540th regular-season victory, 11 short of Patrick Roy's NHL record. He's allowed two goals in the Devils' first two games, both 2-1 victories — though this one was a lot easier than Friday night's win over the Islanders.
"It was like one of those games when I first came into the League, not a lot of shots and not a lot of goals," Brodeur said. "We got a lucky bounce, but we deserved it. He [Fleury] played well, it's too bad for him, but we'll definitely take this win."
Hurricanes 4, Lightning 3, OT | VIDEO
It's generally not a good idea to spot your opponents a multi-goal lead. But for the second time in as many nights, Carolina got away with it, rallying from a 3-0 deficit to win at Tampa Bay one night after overcoming a two-goal deficit to beat Florida at home.
Eric Staal scored the tying goal at 9:56 of the third period and added the winner with 24 seconds left in overtime.
"We definitely don't always dig ourselves that hole, but it was nice to come back and show that character again," Staal said.
The Lightning appeared on their way to an easy win in their home opener until Rod Brind'Amour gave the 'Canes some life by scoring with nine seconds left in the second period. Matt Cullen's power-play goal at 1:56 of the third period cut the deficit to one goal.
The loss denied new Lightning coach Barry Melrose his first victory since 1995, when he left coaching to join ESPN as an analyst. Tampa Bay dropped a pair of 2-1 games to the Rangers in Prague last weekend.
"That wasn't a game," Melrose said. "We have a two-goal lead in the third period and we go out and we just stop working. We stopped doing the things we were doing in the first two periods. That's the gist of it."
Tampa Bay scored twice in a 2:07 span midway through the first period, matching its goal production against the Rangers. Mark Recchi tapped his own rebound past Michael Leighton at 8:20 of the opening period, and rookie defenseman Janne Niskala made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 10:27.
Vincent Lecavalier added another power-play goal on a slap shot from the right circle at 9:01 of the second period.
"Tough loss," said Tampa Bay goaltender Mike Smith, who faced 20 shots in the third period and finished with 42 saves. "It's frustrating when you're up 3-0 and we think we have the world by the finger and let up. ... We've got to play 60 minutes. It's as simple as that."
Wild 4, Bruins 3 | VIDEO
Minnesota made it five wins in as many season-openers at the Xcel Energy Center, even if coach Jacques Lemaire wasn't entirely happy with his team's performance.
Eric Belanger scored twice for the Wild, who beat former teammate Manny Fernandez three times in the second period and held off a Boston rally in the third.
"It's great to win, but you have to know there's certain things you have to do in the future if you want to keep winning," Lemaire said, later adding: "I have to see more. I like the potential that we have. Now we've got to play to that."
Marc Savard scored twice in the third period for Boston, which fell to 1-1 after winning its opener in Colorado on Thursday.
“You got to play three periods of hockey in this league," said Savard, who also had a goal and an assist against Colorado.
Added defenseman Dennis Wideman: "You just can't play a first and a third (period) and beat a team like that."
"It's great to win, but you have to know there's certain things you have to do in the future if you want to keep winning. I have to see more. I like the potential that we have. Now we've got to play to that." – Jacques Lemaire
Phil Kessel's goal 8:03 into the game gave Boston an early lead, but Belanger's below-the-circle poke slipped between Fernandez's pads on a power play at 18:32.
Marc-Andre Bergeron put Minnesota ahead with a power-play goal at 4:01, and goals by Antti Miettinen and Belanger gave the Wild a three-goal lead after two periods — just enough to win.
"Ran out of time," Boston coach Claude Julien said.
It was the first time Fernandez faced the Wild, who acquired him for their inaugural season in 2000 and experienced plenty of ups and downs until trading him to Boston in 2007. This was also Fernandez's first regular-season game in nearly a year, due to a knee injury and subsequent surgery that limited him to four games last October.
"The first and second goal was a good example of what's missing in my game, the sharpness," he said. "Those are two goals that shouldn't go. There's no reason for that, regardless if I get a good look or not."
Predators 3, Stars 1 | VIDEO
The combination of Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont was more than enough to lift the Predators past the Stars in Nashville's home opener. Dumont set up two power-play goals by Arnott and both assisted on Shea Weber's goal.
"He seems to find me wherever I am," Arnott said of Dumont. "We kind of created that chemistry and bond. We're talking all the time. When we're coming to the bench, he's saying, 'Did you see me here? Did you see me there?' Because next time when you get on the ice, he's going to be there."
Weber scored 46 seconds into the game, but Trevor Daley tied it for Dallas at 2:01. Arnott's goal at 10:54 of the opening period put Nashville ahead to stay. He added an insurance goal with 3:47 left in regulation.
The Predators bounced back from an opening 5-2 loss in St. Louis less than 24 hours earlier. They outshot Dallas 32-20, and Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he talked to his team about needing to find their identity after giving up four power-play goals in St. Louis.
"They responded. They took it as a challenge and said that we are better than we were yesterday," Trotz said.
The Predators came out with much more urgency than the Stars to the delight of a sellout crowd at the Sommet Center.
"I think everybody just dug down deep tonight," said Arnott, whose team plays four of its first five on the road. "Home opener gives you a little more energy. That crowd gives you a lot more energy. It was an exciting building to play in."
The Stars, who lost 5-4 in overtime to Columbus at home on Friday, are searching for answers.
"This is a new team, and we have to form our own identity," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "And right now, we're not even close. We need to find some people who can get the job done."
Dallas was 1-5-1 in the preseason, and goalie Marty Turco said the Stars still have a lot of work to do.
"We still have some bad habits that occurred in the preseason, and we're kidding ourselves if we think we have a clean slate after that," Turco said.
Sharks 3, Kings 1 | VIDEO
San Jose made it 2-for-2 under new coach Todd McLellan by stifling the Kings at the Shark Tank in the first game of a home-and-home series.
Evgeni Nabokov had to make only 12 saves as the Sharks outshot the Kings 41-13. Alexander Frolov's power-play goal 6:34 into the game gave L.A. an early lead, but Devin Setoguchi tied the game 1:12 into the second and Tomas Pilhal's shorthanded goal at 17:49 put the Sharks ahead to stay. Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic set up both goals as the Sharks outshot the Kings 17-4 in the middle period.
"When you shoot, good things happen," Vlasic said. "The first 10 minutes of the game, we were a little too fancy. We got back to taking a lot of shots, and it started to pay off for us."
Joe Pavelski provided some insurance when he finished off Jonathan Cheechoo's pass on a 2-on-1 break 63 seconds into the third period as the Sharks followed up a 4-1 win over Anaheim with a second straight dominant performance.
"It was a faster game than the Anaheim game, and we had our legs underneath us and moved the puck well," McLellan said. "It was the first big test of many, to see how we would come out and how our leadership would react, and they passed."
Kings goaltender Jason LaBarbera kept his team in the game with 38 saves as Los Angeles struggled in its season opener. The Sharks won their opener on Thursday night, beating Anaheim 4-1.
"Jason kept us in it quite a lot of times there, and we can't let that happen," said center Kopitar, who was a non-factor in his first game since signing a new seven-year contract. "We have to be more responsible."
The teams meet again in Los Angeles, a game that will see former King Rob Blake make his return to L.A. in a Sharks jersey. Blake had five of San Jose's shots while playing a second outstanding game for the Sharks, who signed the longtime Kings star as a free agent during the summer. Blake spent 13 1/2 of his first 18 NHL seasons with Los Angeles, including the past two, but left for the chance to join a playoff contender.
Coyotes 3, Blue Jackets 1 | VIDEO
Phoenix paid a big price to get center Olli Jokinen from Florida on Draft Night. The Coyotes didn't have to wait long to get a return on their investment. Jokinen had a goal and an assist in the first period as Phoenix beat Columbus in its opener.
Phoenix acquired Jokinen from Florida for Keith Ballard, Nick Boynton and a second-round pick. The Finnish center scored the Coyotes' first goal 6:11 into his first game with Phoenix — and just 12 seconds after he stepped out of the penalty box. He took a pass from Kyle Turris near the top of the left circle on a power play and wristed a shot past Columbus goalie Pascal Leclaire.
''We came out flying,'' Jokinen said. ''We had a lot of energy out there. A lot of guys were playing their first game, and almost the whole first period was good hockey for us.''
"Derick is really competing at a high level. I thought he was excellent. He's not afraid of anything." – Ken Hitchcock on Derick Brassard
Jokinen helped make it 2-0 when he set up Peter Mueller's power-play goal at 18:13. The Blue Jackets filled the penalty box in the first period, and coach Ken Hitchcock said his team paid the price.
''You can't take penalties on the road like we did,'' Hitchcock said. ''We constantly dug ourselves into a hole. I thought we came alive in the second period, but their third goal was a killer.''
Turris, the No. 3 pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, also looked right at home — even though he had played only three NHL games after signing with the Coyotes out of college last spring.
''It looked like the guy's been in the league for 10 years,'' Jokinen said, ''and that was his fourth game.''
The Blue Jackets' Rick Nash screened Phoenix goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to clear the way for Derick Brassard's goal that cut it to 2-1 at 4:10 of the second period. But Keith Yandle's blast from inside the blue line at 6:44 restored the Coyotes' two-goal lead.
"Derick is really competing at a high level," Hitchcock said of Brassard, who also scored in Friday night's 5-4 overtime win at Dallas. "I thought he was excellent. He's not afraid of anything."
The Blue Jackets were without center Michael Peca, who was suspended indefinitely for making contact with an official in Friday’s game. Peca is appealing the suspension.
Canucks 5, Flames 4, OT | VIDEO
Vancouver completed a home-and-home sweep of the Flames when Pavol Demitra scored with 1:06 left in overtime, completing a game-long comeback.
Alex Burrows made the play by picking off a pass in his own zone and racing up the left side. He cut into the slot and rolled a pass to Demitra, who put it into the open left side to spoil the Flames' home opener.
"I just tried to go to the net and hoped the puck would come to me," Demitra said. "That's what happened. Finally, I got lucky. The puck came onto my tape and I just put it in."
Daniel Sedin had a pair of goals for the Canucks, who trailed 3-1 and 4-3 — his goal at 6:10 of the third period forced the overtime. Rick Rypien and Ryan Kesler also scored as the Canucks improved to 2-0 by winning the opener of a six-game road trip.
Flames coach Mike Keenan wasn't happy with the way his team played after it took a two-goal lead.
"I thought we lost that sense of urgency," he said. "We let our guard down just a little bit, and if you do that against a hard-working team like Vancouver, they'll take advantage.
"You should win a game in your own building with a two-goal lead."
Vancouver, a 6-0 winner over the Flames on Thursday, made it seven consecutive goals when Sedin scored 2:11 into the game. But the Flames tied it 38 seconds later on a goal by Andre Roy and went ahead midway through the period on goals 37 seconds apart by Todd Bertuzzi and Rene Bourque.
Rypien and Kesler tied it with goals 62 seconds apart midway through the second period, but Michael Cammalleri put the Flames back in front at 14:08 when he banged the rebound of Bourque's shot behind Roberto Luongo.
Sedin's second of the game pulled the Canucks even. He one-timed a shot from the slot behind Miikka Kiprusoff after getting open behind defenseman Marc Giordano and being set up perfectly from behind the net by brother Henrik.
"We definitely weren't as tight around our net as we need to be," Keenan said. "That's how they got back into the game."
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.
Contact John Kreiser at email@example.com