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Blackhawks

Blackhawks lose to Flyers in Prague

Blackhawks players celebrate a goal as the Philadelphia Flyers' Sean Couturier skates away during an NHL Global Series game Friday in Prague.
Blackhawks players celebrate a goal as the Philadelphia Flyers' Sean Couturier skates away during an NHL Global Series game Friday in Prague.

PRAGUE – It was a successful home debut for Flyers coach Alain Vigneault – a long, long way from Philadelphia.

Travis Konecny scored two goals, and Vigneault won his first game with his new team, directing the Flyers to a season-opening 4-3 victory over the Blackhawks on Friday.

Oskar Lindblom and Michael Raffl also scored for the Flyers in front of a sellout crowd of 17,463 at Prague’s O2 Arena as part of the NHL’s Global Series. Carter Hart stopped 28 shots.

It was the first regular-season game outside of North America in Philadelphia’s 52-year history.

“I think tonight’s game, everybody was down there, everybody was consistent in what we were doing and it was a team win,” Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Patrick Kane had a goal and two assists for the Hawks, who opened the 2009-10 season in Finland. Alex Nylander and Alex DeBrincat also scored.

“I like the way we fought back,” said Kane, who had a career-high 110 points last season. “Whatever the numbers were tonight, I still think I have more to give to the team.”

The Hawks are hoping to return to the playoffs after a two-year absence, but defensemen Dennis Gilbert and Slater Koekkoek each made a costly mistake after the blueliners struggled last year.

Konecny turned Gilbert’s turnover into a 1-0 lead for Philadelphia 6:24 into the first, beating Corey Crawford on the glove side.

Lindblom was credited with a power-play goal 6:28 into the second when his shot bounced off the crossbar and was deflected by Koekkoek into his own net. Konecny then converted a backhander with 1:56 left in the period, giving the Flyers a 3-1 lead.

The Hawks played without defensemen Calvin de Haan and Connor Murphy because of injuries.

“We turned way too many pucks over; that’s where we exposed ourselves defensively,” coach Jeremy Colliton said.

Vigneault became the 21st coach in Flyers history in April after they missed the playoffs for the fourth time in seven seasons. He also has coached Montreal, Vancouver and the New York Rangers.

He was behind the bench as Philadelphia held off the Hawks in the 26th NHL regular-season game played in Europe, and the fifth in Prague.

The Hawks pulled within one when DeBrincat one-timed a pass from Kane past Hart with 13 seconds left in the second. It was DeBrincat’s first goal since he signed a three-year contract extension worth $19.2 million.

Raffl responded for Philadelphia in the third, skating around the net and sliding a backhander between Crawford’s pads for a 4-2 lead at 9:48.

Kane scored with 2:07 remaining, but the Flyers held on.

Crawford finished with 34 saves. Nylander scored in the first period in his first game since he was acquired in an offseason trade with Buffalo.

The NHL returned to Europe for the third straight year as part of its efforts to grow the fan base in hockey-mad countries such as the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland and others.

It will be back in Europe next month when the Tampa Bay Lightning face the Sabres in the Swedish capital of Stockholm.

Notes: NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said the league is planning to play more regular-season games in Europe next year, but the details are still being finalized.

UP NEXT

Hawks: Host the San Jose Sharks in their home opener Thursday night.

Flyers: Host the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

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