Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The 2008 NHL Premiere European Games

For the 2007-08 season, the NHL opened its regular season in Europe for the first time when the Anaheim Ducks played a pair of games versus the Los Angeles Kings at London, England's O2 Arena, with each team taking a 4-1 win.

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The Ducks met the Kings in London to open the 2007 season

The concept was expanded for the start of the 2008-09 season, as the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning all traveled to Europe to being the regular season in what was christened the NHL Premiere.

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Before the teams paired off for the games which would count in the NHL regular season standings, a series of exhibition games took place, starting with Tampa Bay taking on the Berlin Polar Bears (Eisbären Berlin) in Berlin on September 28th, a game won by the Lightning 4-1.

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Tampa Bay met the Berlin Polar Bears in Germany

Two games occurred on September 30th, as the New York Rangers faced SC Bern in Switzerland, a game that drew over 16,000 at the PostFinance Arena, an impressive number by the annual European club team attendance leader. After leading 2-0 after two periods, the Rangers put on a clinic and pulled away in dominating fashion with 6 third period goals for an eventual 8-1 win.

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The Rangers had an easy time against SC Bern

Also that same day, the Lightning took on Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia, a close game which went to Tampa Bay 3-2 in a shootout.

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Tampa Bay required a shootout to defeat Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia

On October 1st, the Rangers faced the 2008 European Champions Cup winner Metallurg Magnitogork in the first annual Victoria Cup at the PostFinance Arena in Bern. With higher ticket prices and the lack of a Swiss team, combined with the NHL not sending the defending Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings, the Victoria Cup drew 13,794, which was 80.5% of capacity.

Those in attendance were treated to a thrilling game, as Magnitogorsk came out determined to show they could compete at the NHL level, and did just that, as Denis Platonov beat the Rangers Henrik Lundqvist just 88 seconds into the game. They would add a second power play goal before the first period ended when Vladimir Malenkikh converted for a 2-0 lead after the first period. Metallurg would extend their lead to a surprising three goal margin at the game's halfway point when Nikolai Zavarukhin scored at 10:20 before the Rangers would pull one back with less than thirty second left in the second on a two-man advantage when Chris Drury got New York on the board to make it 3-1 for the Russians heading into the final twenty minutes.

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Chris Drury scores for the Rangers

In the third period the Rangers recognized the pride of the NHL was on the line and came roaring back, coming within one on another power-play goal at 5:45 when Dan Fritsche scored before Drury tied the game at 3-3 with yet another power play goal with 9:47 left to play. The Rangers would then win the game in dramatic fashion with the winning goal coming on a breakaway when Ryan Callahan intercepted a pass and scored against Andrei Mezin with just 20 seconds left in the game for a 4-3 win for the Rangers and the NHL.

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The Rangers pose with the Victoria Cup after their comeback win

The final two tune-up games took place on October 2nd in Scandinavia, as the Penguins defeated Jokerit Helsinki in Finland 4-1 while the Senators beat Frölunda Gothenberg by an identical 4-1 margin in Sweden to keep the NHL clubs undefeated against their European opponents.

With the preliminaries now out of the way, the NHL Premiere got underway on this date in 2008 with the first game between the Rangers and the Lightning in Prague, Czech Republic, a 2-1 win for the Rangers. The game entered the third period with New York up 1-0 on a goal by Markus Naslund. At 3:37 of the final period Martin St. Louis evened the game at 1-1 but Brandon Dubinsky won it for the Rangers with a power play goal at 14:16 while Lundqvist held on the rest of the way to to seal the win for New York in front of 17,085 at the O2 Arena.

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Brandon Dubinsky scored the game winner for the Rangers

13,699 fans in Stockholm's Globe Arena were treated to Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh later that same day. Just 40 seconds into the game, Tyler Kennedy gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead but just before the halfway point of the first, Shean Donovan equalized for the Senators. Evgeni Malkin put the Penguins back up by one with a shorthanded goal at 3:18 of the second but goals by Dany Heatley at 12:15 on a power play and Jason Spezza's shorthanded goal at 17:55 gave Ottawa a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.

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Jason Spezza scored shorthanded for Ottawa

There was only one goal in the third period, as Rob Scuderi scored on assists from Sidney Crosby and  Miroslav Satan at 3:56. Neither Marc-Andre Fleury for Pittsburgh or Martin Gerber for the Senators could be solved for the game winner in regulation and the game moved to overtime tied at 3-3. With 25 seconds left in overtime, Kennedy got the game winner for the Penguins for a 4-3 final score.

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Tyler Kennedy celebrates for the Penguins

The very next day, October 5th, the Rangers and Lightning squared off again in Prague, with another 17,085 on hand. The Rangers won again by the same 2-1 score after Adam Hall got Tampa Bay off to a 1-0 lead at 18:17 before second period goals by Wade Redden on a power play followed by Scott Gomez scoring the game winner at 12:12. Lunqvist got his second win in two days by making 18 saves on 19 shots while the Rangers pumped 39 against Olaf Kolzig for the Lightning.

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Henrik Lundqvist held the Lightning to 2 goals while picking up 2 wins in two days

Another sellout of 13,699 in Stockholm was on hand for the second Senators vs. Penguins matchup. Heatley from Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson opened the scoring on a power play for the Senators at 13:07 of the second. Heatley's second of the game, again on a power play from Alfredsson and Filip Kuba, at 12:17 of the third was followed by Antoine Vermette extending the Ottawa lead to 3-0 when he beat Fleury at 15:50. With 2 seconds left in the game Alex Goligoski from Crosby and Malkin ruined Alex Auld's shutout, but it was far too little, far, far too late as the Senators got a split in their two games with the Penguins.

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Dany Heatley scored twice in the Senators win

The NHL Premiere series of games would return for the next three seasons before being put on hiatus and has yet to return and no other NHL games have taken place in Europe since 2011. Additionally, the Victoria Cup would only return once more in 2009 before it too, faded away.

Today's featured jersey is a 2008-09 Ottawa Senators Dany Heatley jersey as worn during the NHL Premiere game on October 5, 2008 when the Senators defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 when Heatley scored two of the Senators three goals, which gave him 3 in Ottawa's first two games.

Each team played a game as the home team and the away team during the 2008 NHL Premiere while each jersey was adorned with a special commemorative patch indicating the dates of the two games and whether the series was held in Stockholm or Prague.

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Ottawa Senators 2008-08 Premiere jersey photo Ottawa Senators 2008-08 Premiere B.jpg
Ottawa Senators 2008-08 Premiere jersey photo Ottawa Senators 2008-08 Premiere P.jpg

Bonus jersey: Today's bonus jersey is a 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins Ruslan Fedotenko jersey as worn by Fedotenko on October 5, 2008 when the Penguins faced the Senators in the second of their two games to open the NHL season in Sweden.

Pittsburgh Penguins 2008-08 Premiere jersey photo Pittsburgh Penguins 2008-08 Premiere F.jpg
Pittsburgh Penguins 2008-08 Premiere jersey photo Pittsburgh Penguins 2008-08 Premiere B.jpg
Pittsburgh Penguins 2008-08 Premiere jersey photo Pittsburgh Penguins 2008-08 Premiere P.jpg

Extra bonus jersey: Today's extra bonus jersey is a 2008-09 New York Rangers Brandon Dubinsky jersey as worn by Dubinsky on October 4, 2008 when the Rangers faced the Lightning in the first of their two games in Prague to open the NHL season in the Czech Republic when New York won their season opener 2-1 thanks to a Dubinksy game winning goal on a breakaway late in the game.

As is often the case, the Rangers have placed their patches on one of their shoulders owing to their diagonal cresting of "Rangers" interfering with the traditional placement of patches on the upper right chest of their jerseys.

Since 1976, the Rangers have only worn three patches in the classic right chest location, while they have worn two on the left chest. Seven others have been on the left shoulder and 12 on the right shoulder, including the 2008 NHL Premiere patch.

New York Rangers 2008-08 Premiere jersey photo New York Rangers 2008-08 Premiere F.jpg
New York Rangers 2008-08 Premiere jersey photo New York Rangers 2008-08 Premiere B.jpg
New York Rangers 2008-08 Premiere jersey photo New York Rangers 2008-08 Premiere P.jpg

Extra extra bonus jersey: Today's extra extra bonus jersey is a 2008-09 Ottawa Senators Daniel Alfredsson jersey as worn during the first Senators game on October 4, 2008 against Pittsburgh.

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photo courtesy of Classic Auctions

Today's video section begins with highlights of the Rangers vs. the Lightning and their first game in Prague followed by the Senators taking on the Penguins in Stockholm in their first game on October 4, 2008.

Next, the second games between New York and Tampa Bay followed by Ottawa vs. Pittsburgh, both on October 5th.

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