James Reimer

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Video: Athanasiou buries first goal since conclusion of contract stalemate

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Eight days after finally settling on a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings, Andreas Athanasiou has his first goal of the season.

Situated wide open in the slot, Athanasiou went down to one knee to one-time his shot, which beat Florida Panthers goalie James Reimer on the glove side to give Detroit the lead in the first period.

Athanasiou made his season debut on Thursday, going without a point in 11:38 of ice time against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After a long summer of negotiations, reports that the now 23-year-old forward, a restricted free agent at the time, could sign with a KHL team, and a holdout that entered the second week of the season, Athanasiou and the Red Wings finally agreed on a one-year, $1.387 million contract.

Athanasiou had a strong 2016-17 season with 18 goals and 29 points in 64 games, displaying terrific speed and skill, and the ability to make special plays on a team that could use another young dynamic offensive presence in its lineup.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

Panthers do Penguins a favor, claim Antti Niemi

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Antti Niemi has a Stanley Cup ring. He had a long, strong run with the San Jose Sharks, a big part of his 426 career regular-season games. He … existed with the Dallas Stars.

Antti Niemi also seems like he might just be past his sell-by date as an NHL goalie, as the Pittsburgh Penguins learned painfully to start this season. They laid out some plans if Niemi cleared waivers, but now they won’t have to worry about any of that, as the Florida Panthers stunningly scooped him up.

(The news was reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and TSN’s Bob McKenzie, and is now official as you can see from the Panthers’ roster page.)

As PHT’s Sean Leahy mentioned when Niemi was waived, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford stated that he expected the 34-year-old to play as many as 30-40 games to keep Matt Murray fresh. Instead, Niemi experienced three disastrous appearances, allowing 16 goals with almost unthinkably bad stats.

One would think that the Penguins would turn to intriguing goalie Tristan Jarry as Murray’s backup, although they may instead look to Casey DeSmith or some other organizational option if they feel like it’s the best development decision. (More on that here.)

From the Panthers’ perspective, it sure doesn’t seem like a positive sign for injured goalie Roberto Luongo, so it seems like Niemi will back up James Reimer for at least some time.

The logic is easy enough to see: the Panthers needed someone with Luongo out. Florida making this claim amid Niemi’s struggles made for some entertaining reactions, however.

For one thing, several people point out that Luongo was injured by Penguins forward

It’s really all about the GIFs, though; Friedman’s replies alone are an amusing journey.

Panthers fans are puzzled, if not troubled:

Fans of the Penguins, meanwhile, seem understandably relieved.

Now, let’s be fair to Niemi. While his lousy start with the Penguins and brutal work with the Stars inspires little confidence, it was still just three appearances in 2017-18. Pittsburgh was in a tough spot with back-to-backs and other factors, including an aggressive style that can sometimes put their netminders in vulnerable situations.

There’s at least an outside chance that Niemi could find his game again. Even heading into this season, he acknowledged that he has “a lot to prove,” as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey reported. Goalies can be strange beasts, so there’s at least an outside chance that he might be able to redeem himself, even if it’s just in a spare appearance or two.

In the grand scheme of things, this takes a problem off the Penguins’ hands and only inspires more concern about Luongo and the Panthers.

Here are the other waiver bits for today, including the New York Rangers waiving Adam Cracknell:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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The Buzzer: Kopitar keeps Kings rolling; O’Reilly gives Sabres OT win

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Player of the night: Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings. The Los Angeles Kings continued their impressive start on Saturday night with a 6-4 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, improving their record to a league-best 6-0-1 through their first seven games.

Anze Kopitar was the star of the night as he finished with two goals, an assist, three shots on goal, a plus-five rating while also winning 68 percent of his faceoffs.

His second goal of the game, which came with less than three minutes to play in regulation, proved to be the game-winner for the Kings.

Dustin Brown added an empty net goal (he finished with four points in the win) a minute later.

Kopitar is coming off of a down year offensively in 2016-17 but already has 11 points (six goals, five assists) so far this season for a Kings team that looks to be vastly improved under new coach John Stevens.

Highlight of the night. 

For most of Saturday night it looked like the Buffalo Sabres were on their way to another ugly loss, continuing what has been a miserable start to the season. At one point in the second period they found themselves trailing by a 4-1 margin. But they slowly started to chip away then after Evander Kane scored a late third period goal to tie the game, Ryan O'Reilly ended up winning it in overtime on this beauty of a play to give the Sabres their second win of the season.

Factoid of the Night.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have two superstars at forward. They are playing like it. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are the first pair of teammates in more than 15 years to start a season with matching nine-game point streaks. [NHL]

Misc.

— Three more assists for Erik Karlsson on Saturday night giving him six on the season. He has played in two games. After major ankle surgery. He is not human.

Clayton Keller added to his rookie leading goal total with his sixth of the season. He is the one bright spot for the Arizona Coyotes this season as they remain winless after their 4-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

— With the first two-goal game of his NHL career Tyler Pitlick was the difference for the Dallas Stars in their 4-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are both off to tremendous starts for the Boston Bruins. Both players scored a pair of goals for the Bruins on Saturday night in their 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Both players already have six goals on the season.

James Reimer was great for the Florida Panthers, stopping 41 shots in their 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals. With Roberto Luongo on injured reserve the Panthers are going to need a couple of big games from Reimer over the next week.

Mikhail Sergachev looks fantastic for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He is now up to eight points on the season.

Wayne Simmonds was the hero for the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday with a late goal to help lift them to a 2-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers. He is now up to six goals on the season. Claude Giroux scored his fifth goal in the win.

Logan Couture‘s hat trick was not enough to help the San Jose Sharks in New York on Saturday night against the Islanders. John Tavares had a goal, two assists in the win.

Scores and recaps

New York Rangers 4, Nashville Predators 2

Philadelphia Flyers 2, Edmonton Oilers 1

Buffalo Sabres 5, Boston Bruins 4

Tampa Bay Lightning 7, Pittsburgh Penguins 1

Ottawa Senators 6, Toronto Maple Leafs 3

New York Islanders 5, San Jose Sharks 3

Los Angeles Kings 6, Columbus Blue Jackest 4

Florida Panthers 4, Washington Capitals 1

Dallas Stars 4, Carolina Hurricanes 3

Chicago Blackhawks 4, Arizona Coyotes 2

Minnesota Wild 4, Calgary Flames 2

Vegas Golden Knights 3, St. Louis Blues 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

The Buzzer: Ovechkin’s blast lifts Capitals in OT, Sheary speeds by Panthers

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Player of the night: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin has already reached double digits in goals scored in this new campaign. The Capitals’ star recorded his 10th goal of the season on Friday and it counted as the overtime winner against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Capitals trailed late in the third period, but T.J. Oshie scored the tying goal and Ovechkin won it on a power play less than two minutes into the extra period, as he deployed that famous one-timer slap shot from his off-wing. This time, Petr Mrazek was victimized by the wicked slapper.

Ovechkin is now only two goals behind the entire Montreal Canadiens team — in the same amount of games.

Highlight of the night:

What a weapon speed is in today’s National Hockey League. Conor Sheary illustrated that once again, as he saw a little bit of room down the left side and flew around Alex Petrovic before making a move to the backhand on James Reimer. That goal counted as the eventual winner, as the Penguins defeated the Panthers 4-3. Earlier in the third period, Sheary and Roberto Luongo came together near the Florida net, causing Luongo’s right hand to get caught against the post, injuring the Panthers’ netminder.

Factoid of the night:

It was a milestone night in Winnipeg for Blake Wheeler and coach Paul Maurice.

Scores:

Vancouver 4, Buffalo 2

San Jose 3, New Jersey 0

Washington 4, Detroit 3 (OT)

Pittsburgh 4, Florida 3

Winnipeg 4, Minnesota 3

Anaheim 6, Montreal 2

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Roberto Luongo leaves game with apparent injury, as Panthers fall to Penguins

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The Florida Panthers lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Making matters worse was the fact their goalie Roberto Luongo left the game in the third period with an apparent hand injury.

The injury occurred after a collision in the crease with Penguins forward Conor Sheary.

Luongo immediately went down to the ice in pain. A replay from above the net showed Luongo’s right hand getting caught in an awkward position against the post after coming into contact with Sheary as he cut through in front of the crease in pursuit of the puck.

The injury forced James Reimer off the bench and into the game with the Panthers trailing by a goal. MacKenzie Weegar tied the game for Florida before Sheary scored the eventual winner about eight minutes later, on a night when the Penguins fired 48 shots on the two Panthers goalies.

Luongo gave up three goals on 36 shots before leaving the game. The Panthers now head out on the road. They’ll visit the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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