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Neal, Fleury help Golden Knights win first game, defeat Stars

Forward scores twice, goalie makes 45 saves in expansion team's debut

by Sean Shapiro / NHL.com Correspondent

DALLAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights won their first NHL game, 2-1 against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Friday.

 

[WATCH: All Golden Knights vs. Stars highlights]

 

James Neal scored twice in the third period, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 45 saves for Vegas in the expansion team's season opener.

"Yeah, those are up there with the best of them," Neal said. "I know it's just the first game of the year, but seeing how happy guys were and how excited everyone was to start the season with a new team, a fresh start. We all got an unbelievable opportunity here to do something special. It was a great feeling."

Neal scored the game-winner with 2:44 remaining in the third period on a 2-on-1. Cody Eakin, who played the past five seasons for Dallas, drew a defender and passed to Neal, who lifted a forehand over goalie Kari Lehtonen.

Video: VGK@DAL: Fleury shuts down Benn and Seguin in the 2nd

Vegas became the first NHL expansion team to win its first game since the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning each opened the 1992-93 season with a victory.

Neal tied the game 1-1 with the first goal in Golden Knights history, a wrist shot that beat Lehtonen at 10:27 of the third period. Neal did not play any preseason games while he recovered from a hand injury.

"I'm real happy for [Neal]," Fleury said. "He's a guy that is always hungry to get more goals and to get wins. Coming back from surgery also, and then he got two big goals for us."

Tyler Seguin gave Dallas a 1-0 lead on a deflection at 17:01 of the second period on a power play. Devin Shore made a slap pass from the top of the circle that Seguin deflected over Fleury's glove.

Ben Bishop made 19 saves in his Stars debut before leaving with an upper-body injury in the third period. Reilly Smith's shot 4:00 into the period caught Bishop up high and cut the goaltender. He went to the locker room and was replaced by Lehtonen, who made nine saves in relief. Bishop returned to the bench with about eight minutes remaining, but Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said they had to follow NHL concussion protocol and couldn't put Bishop back in.

"I don't think [the loss is] on the goaltending," Hitchcock said. "We made two big errors, both ended up in our net."

Video: VKG@DAL: Seguin nets redirect for power-play goal

 

Goal of the game

Neal had a little bit of luck scoring the first goal. His wrist shot deflected off the knee of Dallas forward Radek Faksa and beat Lehtonen five-hole.

Video: VGK@DAL: Neal notches Golden Knights' first goal

 

Save of the game

With 7:36 remaining in the second period, Seguin set up Alexander Radulov on a breakaway. Fleury didn't get credit for a save, but he forced the shot wide with an aggressive poke check attempt that kept it 1-0.

 

Highlight of the game

Neal held his balance as long as he could before scoring the game-winning goal. He went to one knee to receive the pass from Eakin and stickhandled once before flipping a shot over a sprawling Lehtonen as he was falling.

"I just tried to do everything I could just to give myself a chance to get it on net," Neal said. "I saw that Kari was down, so I just tried to get it up. I don't know. Honestly, it was just a great feeling, so it was a lot of fun out there."

Video: VGK@DAL: Neal nets his second goal of the game

 

They said it

"It's a big thing, not just because it's the first game in the history of the team. We all wanted it to be a good memory that way, but also for everything that's happened back home and try to have the town behind us, have them be proud of their team. I'm glad we got that first one in." -- Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury

 

"I think we've all sat here enough times, not to bring up the past, but saying we've had a lot of chances in a game. It's obviously game one, but we've got to find ways to play in those key moments and not be the first team to make a mistake." -- Stars center Tyler Seguin

 

Need to know

The Stars stood behind the Golden Knights for a moment of silence and during the national anthem. It was a moment of solidarity after the mass shooting Sunday in Las Vegas. The teams wore stickers that said "Vegas Strong" on the back of their helmets. … Nate Schmidt and Luca Sbisa had the first two assists for Vegas. … Fleury made 22 saves in the third period.

 

What's next

Golden Knights: At the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday (9 p.m. ET; FS-A, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV)

Stars: At the St. Louis Blues on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; FS-MW, FS-SW, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Neal, Fleury power Vegas to first franchise win

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