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Niemi shines as Stars shut out Penguins, 3-0

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Antti Niemi made an impact on both ends of the ice in his Dallas Stars debut, stopping 37 shots for his 33rd career shutout and assisting on two Dallas goals as the Stars opened the 2015-16 season with a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins at American Airlines Center Thursday night.

“Not much better than this. Great night,” Niemi said. “Great effort from our team, great penalty kill. Lots of luck, too, especially at the end.”

Niemi made 27 saves over the final two periods of the game, including 14 in the third when he had three sharp stops on Pittsburgh’s Phil Kessel and another slick one on a close range backhand bid by Evgeni Malkin.

“Very good,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Niemi’s performance. “He looked quick, nothing went through him, and he made some really good saves at the end of the game to put the icing on the cake.”

“He was solid,” said forward Ales Hemsky. He didn’t give up too much. I have to give him credit.”

Niemi also chipped in offensively, picking up secondary assists on the Stars’ first two goals, which were scored by Mattias Janmark and Hemsky. Jamie Benn also scored for the Stars, who won the special teams battle by going 2-5 on the power play and 3-3 on the penalty kill.

“The two power-play goals in the game, that was really key,” said Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston. “Number one, we can’t take those penalties and two, our penalty kill has to be better.”

Janmark scored the only goal of the first period, taking a cross-ice pass from Hemsky off the rush and beating Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from close range 1:39 into the game. For Janmark, it was his first NHL goal in his first NHL game, and it came on his first shot.

"I couldn't have had a better start,” Janmark said. “To play the first game and to get that start, I never dreamed of that. It was really great.”

Hemsky made it a 2-0 game at 5:42 of the second, roofing a snap shot off the rush with the Stars on their first power play of the season.

“I just shot it and it went into the net, so I probably have to do it more often,” Hemsky said.

The Penguins didn’t help their cause in the third, taking four penalties, and the Stars cashed in on the fourth one. Benn tipped in a Jason Spezza shot at the 12:39 mark to make it a 3-0 game.

The Penguins pulled Fleury with 2:45 remaining for an extra skater and put on some late pressure, but Niemi held the fort giving the Stars a solid performance in net to open the 2015-16 season.

“It’s important for our team,” Ruff said. “We talked about our goals against and we are going to need a few more saves. We got both. We had guys blocking shots and desperation. I think the important part is he didn’t give up any bad ones. He made some great saves, but nothing leaked through him. He looked really good.”


Hemsky up to speed

The word through training camp and the preseason was that Ales Hemsky was still trying to get up to speed after undergoing hip surgery in the offseason. Well, Hemsky looked up to speed Thursday against Pittsburgh, registering one goal, one assist and three shots on goal in 13:27 of ice time.

“I feel much better than in the preseason,” Hemsky said. “It was kind of a tough preseason and hard. It was the first time I felt a little bit better, but I think it helped that we scored on our first shift. I got a little bit of confidence, and it was fun tonight.”

Hemsky played on a line with Mattias Janmark and Antoine Roussel. Hemsky set up a Janmark goal in the first period and then scored on the power play in the second.

"Very good. Not only scored, but skated very well. He shot the puck more. I really liked his performance,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.


Janmark debut

Rookie Mattias Janmark made his NHL debut Thursday and had a strong game, scoring 1:39 into the first period for his first NHL goal.

"It was great to see. He deserved it,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “He's had a heck of a camp. He's really skated well. For his first game, I thought there might have been some tightness, but he looked really good out there. Was comfortable in our own end. I made the move to put him back to center, let him play his natural position, and he did a really good job."

The 22-year-old Janmark, the surprise of training camp, played 11:54, had three shots on goal, six shot attempts and won three of 12 faceoffs.

“I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be,” Janmark said. “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. I played a few years pro in Sweden too, so I’ve played in front of crowds too, but of course you don’t know what to expect in that first regular season game.”


Notes

*According to Elias Sports Bureau, Antti Niemi became the first goaltender in NHL history to record two assists and a shutout in the same game.

*Niemi became the first Stars goaltender to record multiple assists in a game since Johan Hedberg did it on Dec. 26, 2005.

*Mattias Janmark’s goal at 1:39 of the first period was second-fastest by a player making his NHL debut in Dallas Stars franchise history. Bob Barlow scored at the 1:08 mark in 1969.

*Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 37-24.

*Pittsburgh had 66 shots directed towards the net to 61 for the Stars.

*The Stars were 2-5 on the power play and 3-3 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 38 of 78 faceoffs (49 percent).

*Jason Spezza won 12 of 20 draws (60 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 8 of 11 (73 percent). Cody Eakin won 10 of 22 (45 percent). Mattias Janmark won 3 of 12 (25 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars in ice time with 22:38.

*Thursday’s attendance was 18,532, a sellout.


What’s next

The Stars play at Colorado Saturday and then return home to take on the Edmonton Oilers Tuesday at American Airlines Center.


Stars lineup

Jamie BennCody EakinTyler Seguin

Valeri NichushkinJason SpezzaPatrick Sharp

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves

Antoine RousselMattias JanmarkAles Hemsky


Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn


Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen


Scratches: Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, Colton Sceviour

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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