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Golden Knights spoil Stars opener, rallying late for first-ever win

A pair of third-period goals lift the expansion club to a 2-1 victory in its inaugural game

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / DallasStars.com

The Dallas Stars began their 25th anniversary celebration with Friday's season opener against Vegas at American Airlines Center, but it was the Golden Knights who were celebrating at the end of the night.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 45 saves, and James Neal scored two goals as the Golden Knights won the inaugural game in their franchise's history, defeating the Stars 2-1.

The Stars dominated play at times, outshooting Vegas 46-30 and holding a 75-61 edge in shot attempts, but Vegas scored twice in the final half of the third period to erase a 1-0 Stars lead and rally for the victory.

"The key thing we are going to take away from the game tonight isn't the chances," said Stars center Tyler Seguin. "It's the times we make mistakes at critical points in games. It's only game one, but we've got to find a way to play in those key moments and not be the first team to make a mistake."

Coach Ken Hitchcock said the Stars got "distracted."

"I think it's a combination. It's not just how good the goalie was or frustration by not scoring. That's the big challenge facing us. We can't be distracted," Hitchcock said. "Distracted by taking penalties 200 feet from our net. Distracted on retaliation. Frustrated because you missed a scoring chance or something didn't happen. We played hard and played awfully well for an extended period of time, but we got distracted. When you get distracted, you throw the game up in the air."

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

Seguin scored the lone goal for the Stars, and Ben Bishop stopped all 19 shots he faced before leaving the game early in the third period after getting hit in the mask by a shot off the stick of Vegas forward Reilly Smith. Bishop did not return to the game due to entering the NHL's concussion protocol but was said to be okay after the game.

"He's fine," Hitchcock said. "And we were directed to keep him out. He'll be fine tomorrow."

Kari Lehtonen played the rest of the game for the Stars and stopped nine of 11 shots. One of the goals was a deflection off traffic, and the other was on an odd-man rush.

"I don't think this is on the goaltending," said Hitchcock. "We made two big errors, both ended up in our net. We did a lot of good things today. There are a lot of things we've got to get better at. There are people we've got to get better. But we did a lot of really good things. We didn't extend the lead after the second period, and we left the game out there."

Fleury was superb for the Golden Knights making a number of big saves including some key ones on Seguin and Radulov.

"He was outstanding," said Vegas coach Gerard Gallant. "He was obviously the first star of the game, and he made some great saves for us in the hockey game, and he kept us in it."

The Stars had penalty issues in the first period, taking four minors - three of them by Antoine Roussel - but their penalty killing was up to the task and kept it scoreless game.

The Stars were all over Vegas in the second period, holding a 17-5 shots advantage in the period a little more than 12 minutes in, but Fleury wouldn't crack. He had a great stop on Seguin early in the period and then denied Radulov on a breakaway and a follow-up bid by Seguin.

Video: VGK@DAL: Radulov lays a big hit on Eakin

After the Stars killed off a fifth Vegas power play, they finally broke through on Fleury while on their third power play of the night. Seguin tipped home a shot-pass Devin Shore to give the Stars a 1-0 lead at the 17:01 mark of the second.

The Stars lost Bishop early in the third and in came Lehtonen who made a couple of big saves before Neal scored on a shot that deflected in off traffic during a delayed penalty call on Dallas to tie the game 1-1 at the 10:27 mark.

The Stars had chances to take the lead including a 4-on-3 power play for 52 seconds in the first half of the third period but couldn't take advantage. The Stars had more chances later in the period but Fleury stopped Seguin from about 20 feet away, and Vegas defenseman Jason Garrison blocked Radulov's bid at a wide open net with 3:43 remaining.

About one minute later, Vegas had the lead. Neal took a pass from Cody Eakin on a two-on-one rush and while sliding on his knees lifted the puck over Lehtonen with 2:44 remaining in the game to put the Golden Knights ahead 2-1. 

"Just trying to be available for (Eakin) to get it over," Neal said. "I think it hit off my skate. I just tried to do everything I could just to give myself a chance to get it on net. I saw that Kari (Lehtonen) 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."

Not so much fun for the Stars, who will try to bounce back when they play at St. Louis on Saturday.

Notes

  • Alexander Radulov showed a physical side early in the game, throwing a couple of big hits including an open ice hit that leveled Vegas center Cody Eakin.

  • Things got a little testy at the end of the second period after Vegas forward James Neal threw a big hit on Stars center Tyler Seguin in front of the Golden Knights net.

  • Seguin led the Stars with ten shots on goal and 13 shot attempts.

  • Radulov had four shots on goal and ten shot attempts.

  • The Stars were 7-7 on the penalty kill and 1-4 on the power play.

  • Dallas won 38 of 66 faceoffs (58 percent).

  • Jason Spezza won 8 of 13 faceoffs (62 percent). Martin Hanzal won 7 of 12 (58 percent). Seguin won 10 of 18 (56 percent).

  • The Stars blocked 20 shots in the game and were led by Marc Methot with five.

  • John Klingberg led the Stars with 23:45 of ice time.

  • Friday's attendance at the AAC was 18,532, a sellout.

What's Next

The Stars hit the road to take on the St. Louis Blues Saturday. It will be the first of five meetings between the Stars and Blues this season. The Blues opened the season with a 5-4 win in Pittsburgh Wednesday.

Stars Lineup

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Brett Ritchie
Devin Shore - Martin Hanzal - Tyler Pitlick
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Gemel Smith

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Marc Methot - Jamie Oleksiak
Dan Hamhuis - Stephen Johns

Ben Bishop
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Adam Cracknell, Julius Honka, Greg Pateryn
Injured: None

This story was not subject to 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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