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Niemi makes 37 saves in Stars debut, blanks Penguins

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Antti Niemi made 37 saves and had two assists to lead the Dallas Stars to a season-opening 3-0 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins at American Airlines Center on Thursday.

"I thought he looked quick, nothing went through him, and then he made a couple really good saves right at the end of the game to put the icing on the cake," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

Mattias Janmark, Ales Hemsky and Jamie Benn scored for Dallas.

Janmark, who was making his NHL debut, opened the scoring 1:39 into the first period.

"I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be," said Janmark, who was acquired from the Detroit Red Wings in a March 1 trade. "Everything is pretty quick and playing the preseason games has almost been like playing the regular-season games, so I guess I kind of learned from that."

Janmark beat Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to his short side with a snap shot after taking a pass from Hemsky from the right faceoff circle into the slot off the rush.

"Janmark's smart and fast," Hemsky said. "[He's] one of those types of guys who can play both ways. He's good defensively and he can jump on the rush."

Dallas went on the power play for the first time 4:57 into the second period when Penguins center Nick Bonino was whistled for hooking Stars center Jason Spezza.

The Stars capitalized 45 seconds later when Hemsky beat Fleury high on his blocker side with a wrist shot from the right point after a pass from defenseman Alex Goligoski.

"We wanted to stay focused on keeping it simple, getting pucks there and trying to outnumber them around the net," Ruff said of the Dallas power play. "We battled hard to get some pucks back, which keeps the power play alive."

The Stars were 2-for-5 on the man-advantage; the Penguins were 0-for-3.

Niemi swallowed up a one-timer by Phil Kessel 3:38 into the third period. Kessel, who was making his Penguins debut after a July 1 trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs, attempted to tuck a shot inside the far post, but Niemi slid over from the near post to deny the chance.

"He played good," Kessel said of Niemi. "He made good saves, and when a goalie makes those saves, that's going to happen. Both goalies played well tonight."

It was the 33rd shutout of Niemi's NHL career; he had eight assists in 338 games before earning two Thursday. The Stars acquired Niemi from the San Jose Sharks on June 27, then signed him to a three-year contract two days later.

Dallas had an apparent power-play goal by Patrick Sharp waved off at 6:49 of the third period after Stars captain Jamie Benn was whistled for goaltender interference on Fleury.

Benn shoved Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy in front of the net, sending Lovejoy over the top of Fleury, who was unable to play Sharp's wrist shot from the right circle as a result.

Benn redirected a shot by Tyler Seguin at 12:39 of the third period for a power-play goal. Dallas gained the man-advantage after Ian Cole was called for high sticking against Seguin seven seconds earlier.

Dallas held Penguins captain Sidney Crosby without a shot on goal in 22:08 of ice time. Kessel had six shots in 19:40.

"Yeah, I thought that line (Kessel, Crosby and Chris Kunitz) had quite a few good chances," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "Actually, [Kunitz] had probably three or four really good chances tonight from shots from the outside lane, which were cross-ice passes. So I thought they generated it, that's for sure."

Fleury made 21 saves before leaving the ice with 2:45 remaining in favor of the extra attacker.

The Penguins outshot the Stars 37-24 and felt they generated more than enough opportunities.

"Yeah, we had some decent looks," Crosby said. "I thought we gave up a few kind of big chances you don't want to give up but still had our fair share of chances. Obviously, special teams, as we know, is really important. We gave a couple up on the power play."

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