The New York Rangers opened the 2011-12 NHL season overseas in lovely Scandinavia with games in Stockholm, Sweden, against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. While the end result may not have been what we were hoping for, there are plenty of positives as well as things than can be fixed and improved upon.

More after the jump.

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– Let’s start out with the game against L.A.:

The Los Angeles Kings defeated the Rangers in overtime 3-2 on opening night (Sweden), or day (US), depending on where you reside, thanks to a power play goal by defenseman Jack Johnson. Blueshirts’ defenseman Ryan McDonaugh was called for tripping at 2:51 into overtime. After a solid penalty kill, the Rangers finally let up with fifty two seconds left, allowing a one-timer to Johnson who tapped in a pass from newly acquired center Mike Richards.

The ice surface was terrible and seems it took both clubs a while to get used to it. With pucks turning and bouncing at awkward angles players had to shift their attention from forechecking responsibilities, penalty killing, and the like, to just keeping the puck on their sticks.

The crowd was largely behind the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist, who is about as big as a star can get in hockey-crazy Sweden, and Lundqvist delivered an excellent performance in his home country. He had a superb glove save on a blistering shot by the Kings’ Dustin Brown late in the first period, and blocked a wraparound attempt by Justin Williams halfway through the second. All in all it was yet another typical showing in net by the King.

While Lundqvist shined throughout, the Rangers’ skaters made several clearing mistakes that turned into scoring chances for the Kings. One of these mistakes led to a Los Angeles goal, when Ruslan Fedotenko and Artem Anisimov botched a clearing attempt in the Rangers’ zone in the first period, allowing Williams to steal the puck and feed Anze Kopitar, who beat Lundqvist with a wrist shot.

The Rangers quickly regrouped and responded. Anisimov passed to captain Ryan Callahan, who beat Jonathan Quick from a difficult angle to tie it 1-1 at 15:22 in the first period. The Rangers were primed to open the season with a win when Marian Gaborik converted with a shot from just outside the crease in the third period, giving the Rangers a 2-1 lead with 9:32 to play. He was assisted by Brandon Dubinsky and the big Rangers’ newcomer Brad Richards.

But just under four-and-a-half minutes later, LA’s big new arrival Mike Richards tied the game with his first goal out of a Flyers’ sweater. The Kings failed to capitalize on four power plays in regulation, but converted in overtime on the one that meant most. A team with as much offensive talent as LA has can’t be given a penalty in that situation. In that position, that’s too much momentum for the Rangers to give up.

The Blueshirts still get one point from the overtime loss, but after that kind of a battle it’s disappointing not to get a win.

– On to the Anaheim game, which ended in a similarly disappointing fashion:

America’s own Bobby Ryan scored the only goal in a shootout (see the photo at the top) lifting the Ducks to a 2-1 victory, handing the Rangers their second-straight overtime loss in as many days.

Center Andrew Cogliano scored for the Ducks midway through the first period, thanks to the strong forechecking of rookie Devante Smith-Pelly, who registered an assist on the play – his first NHL point.

The game was marked early and often by very sloppy play, and a lack of smart hockey. Case in point: there were 19 penalties, two of which were against the Ducks for having too many men on the ice. It seemed like the whole first period went by without any 5-on-5 hockey at all.

“It wasn’t a smooth game at all,” Rangers coach John Tortorella said. “But we stayed with it. At times, as ugly as we were, we still found a way to battle and get a big goal at the end.”

The big goal came as the Rangers appeared headed for a loss in regulation late in the third. But Brad Richards came up big and scored with 2 minutes and 15 seconds left, his first goal a Ranger. Richards’ goal came after the Ducks had trouble clearing the puck from their own zone. Ryan McDonagh took control of the puck and passed it to Richards, who skated up to Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller and wristed the puck top-shelf to tie the game 1-1.

It was Richards’ second point in his first two games with the Rangers. Thus far he has shown exactly why the team lured him from Dallas with a nine-year, $60 million contract this offseason – probably the NHL’s biggest free-agent deal this summer.

As is the case with every game, Henrik Lundqvist kept the Rangers close and rewarded the sellout crowd in his homeland with another outstanding game in the net. He stopped 27 shots and each save was followed by wild applause and the crowd chanting “Henke! Henke!” – which is Lundqvist’s Swedish name.

Lundqvist stood on his head and continued to make saves, yet it wasn’t enough again. The Rangers managed only 15 shots on goal, and even more remarkably only three in the third period. In the previous game against Los Angeles, Ryan Callahan took eleven shots himself.

The Rangers came out with a lucky point in this one. They finally head back to the States, and just reading body language and effort on the ice tells me there’s no doubt the Rangers’ European stretch played a factor in the team’s energy throughout these two games. The Rangers will have the rest of the week off, and will face their little brother the Islanders next Saturday at 7:00 PM.

Before I wrap things up, I just want to point out the spectacular job Dan Girardi has been doing in the absence of Marc Staal. Girardi, one of the more under-appreciated defenseman in the whole league, averaged nearly 31 minutes of ice time in Sweden, nearly five minutes a night in both games on the penalty kill, and almost two minutes a night on the power play. Girardi’s stellar play out of the gate has kept young Tim Erixon and Steve Eminger from being leaned on too heavily. New York’s play along the blueline has been good so far; so imagine how good it can be once Staal comes back.

So, the Rangers come out of Europe with two points and have earned a nice stretch off. As a buddy of mine once said, coming home with something is much better than nothing.