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Markus Naslund stars in New York Rangers' NHL season-opener

The Canadian Press
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New York Rangers\' Markus Naslund celebrates after scoring against Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Prague, Saturday Oct. 4, 2008. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Petr David Josek Author: The Hockey News

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Markus Naslund stars in New York Rangers' NHL season-opener

The Canadian Press
By:

PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Markus Naslund came through in his debut with the New York Rangers even though he wasn't the star Czech fans had hoped to see.

Signed in the off-season to replace Jaromir Jagr, Naslund scored a goal and Brandon Dubinsky added another in New York's 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, when the NHL opened its regular season in Europe for the second straight year.

"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."

The sold-out crowd at the O2 Arena was quiet during the opening stages of the game, and many fans wore New York Rangers jerseys in a reminder that when they bought their tickets, Czech star Jagr was still in New York.

The Rangers still had Czechs Petr Prucha and Michal Rozsival, while Tampa Bay featured Vaclav Prospal and Radim Vrbata, and the crowd cheered more as the game progressed.

"It was a great atmosphere, the fans were really into it," Naslund said. "It was fun."

The long-time Vancouver Canucks captain from Sweden agreed to a two-year deal worth US$8 million in July after Jagr left New York as a free agent and signed with Omsk Avangard of the KHL in Russia.

Naslund scored with 1:52 remaining in the second period on a wrist shot after being fed by Scott Gomez.

"It was nice to have a win here," Naslund said. "We controlled the game and we deserved to win."

New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist made 20 saves and Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith had 39.

"We outshot them badly," Naslund said. "We just gotta be careful with their offensive guys and not let them break. That's why it's great to have Henrik. It was a very tough game for him, facing not many shots but quite a few breakaways."

The teams play the second game of their series on Sunday in Prague.

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Markus Naslund stars in New York Rangers' NHL season-opener