DALLAS (AP) — James Neal scored twice in the third period Friday night, rallying the Golden Knights to a 2-1 victory over the Dallas Stars in the debut of the first major pro sports franchise in Las Vegas.
The expansion team was playing five days after the shooting that killed 58 people in Las Vegas, and the Dallas players honored the desert city by forming a line next to their Vegas counterparts before the national anthem.
With the video board reading “Viva Las Vegas” above the players, the public address announcer said “Dallas stands with Vegas and those affected by the horrifying tragedy.”
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 45 of 46 shots to help the Golden Knights become the first expansion to open with a victory since the Ottawa Senators in 1992. They also spoiled coach Ken Hitchcock’s return to Dallas 18 years after he directed the franchise’s only Stanley Cup title.
Both of Neal’s goals came against Kari Lehtonen after Ben Bishop left with an apparent facial injury after taking a puck to the mask. Bishop had stopped all 19 shots in his Dallas debut after coming over in a trade with Los Angeles and signing a long-term contract with the Stars.
A former Dallas player and expected to be a top offensive threat for the Golden Knights, Neal beat a screened Lehtonen between the legs midway through the third period for the tying goal. The go-ahead goal came in transition when Neal got the puck past from Lehtonen from his knees with 2:44 remaining.
Tyler Seguin opened the scoring late in the second period when he redirected a pass from Devin Shore past Marc-Andre Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with Pittsburgh before being left unprotected in the expansion draft.
BLUE JACKETS 5, ISLANDERS 0
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Pierre-Luc Dubois scored in his NHL debut and Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves in Columbus’ victory over New York in the season opener for both teams.
Rookie Sonny Milano scored 1:07 into the game, and the 19-year-old Dubois made it 5-0 midway through the second period. Arena. Cam Atkinson, Ryan Murray and Zach Werenski also scored, newcomer Artemi Panarin had three assists, and Alexander Wennberg added two assists.
Islanders starter Thomas Greiss made 21 saves before being pulled after giving up Dubois’ goal. Jaroslav Halak stopped all 11 shots he faced in relief.
With all of the offensive opportunities created by the Blue Jackets, it could have been worse.
Columbus scored on its first shot of the season when Oliver Bjorkstrand shoveled the puck out from the back wall to Milano for a 10-footer that he snapped past Greiss.
LIGHTNING 5, PANTHERS 3
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Steven Stamkos set up the go-ahead goal in his return from a right knee injury and Tampa Bay beat Florida in their opener.
Stamkos missed the final 65 games last season with a torn meniscus in the knee, an injury that required surgery. He sent a pass from the left circle through the slot to Vladislav Namestnikov, who put Tampa Bay up 3-2 from near the post 59 seconds into the final period during a power play.
Ondrej Palat had two goals, and Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov also scored for the Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 33 saves.
Florida got goals from Connor Brickley Mark Pysyk and Jonathan Huberdeau, and Roberto Luongo stopped 20 shots. New Panthers Bob Boughner took the loss in his NHL coaching debut.
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