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Video: James Neal scores twice, Golden Knights secure historic win

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We are, apparently, all about making history during these opening three days of the 2017-18 National Hockey League season.

James Neal, who dealt with a hand injury throughout training camp and was only activated just prior to Friday’s game versus the Dallas Stars, scored twice in just under seven minutes to propel the Vegas Golden Knights to their first NHL regular season victory in franchise history (there’s that word again).

With the Stars leading in the third period, Neal scored the equalizer, the first-ever goal for the expansion franchise, and then the eventual winner in a 2-1 victory for the Golden Knights.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 45 saves for the win.

While the Stars lost the game, the bigger concern is for goalie Ben Bishop. After playing through the first two periods and not giving up a goal, Bishop was struck in the mask by a shot. He was cut on the play and had to leave the game, forcing Kari Lehtonen off the bench.

Neal then scored twice on Lehtonen. He scored the second goal off balance from his knees as he fell to the ice off the rush.

Panarin sets franchise record in Blue Jackets debut

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One day after his former team put 10 goals on the board versus Pittsburgh, Artemi Panarin had a memorable game of his own in his regular season debut for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It wasn’t a hat trick of goals like the one Brandon Saad recorded on Thursday. Instead, Panarin had three assists, his first a nifty set up on Cam Atkinson‘s first goal of the season. The Blue Jackets jumped out to a big lead over the New York Islanders and cruised from there to a 5-0 win.

The victory also included Sonny Milano and Pierre-Luc Dubois scoring their first career NHL goals.

The Blue Jackets already had a group of young players that took a step forward last season by contending for the Metropolitan Division against Pittsburgh and the Washington Capitals. They set a new standard for the organization, setting franchise records in wins and points. The play of Sergei Bobrovsky in net played a significant role, too.

They added to their group this summer by acquiring Panarin from Chicago in a blockbuster that sent Saad back to the Blackhawks. In acquiring Panarin, Columbus received a 25-year-old forward with two impressive NHL seasons under his belt, as he reached at least 30 goals in each of those years with the Blackhawks.

He did so playing alongside Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane, who has been a dangerous offensive player throughout junior and throughout his NHL career. That said, there seems to be suggestions that Panarin’s production was boosted by the fact he played as Kane’s linemate.

It’s a point that he has expressed anger toward. Who can blame him? After all, he scored 102 points combined over two seasons in the KHL before joining the Blackhawks and continued to put up good numbers in the NHL.

His time in Columbus is off to a good start. He showed chemistry with Atkinson, a 35-goal scorer last season, on the second goal. Breaking into the zone with speed, Panarin put a beautiful pass across the ice for Atkinson, who re-directed the puck in off his skate.

We’ve seen four hat tricks through the first two days of the new season, marking NHL history in the process.

No hat trick tonight for Panarin, but his three assists in his debut were enough to make Blue Jackets history. On the third night of the new NHL season, no less.

Shaky starts overshadow Stanley Cup rematch between Penguins, Predators

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PITTSBURGH (AP) Four months ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators spent six games trading shots and momentum in a spirited tug-of-war for the Stanley Cup that ended with the Penguins skating away with their second straight title.

A rematch looms Saturday night, though don’t expect either team to get nostalgic. The new season is three days old and both teams appear to be struggling to emerge from a Cup hangover.

The Penguins? Sidney Crosby and company have allowed 15 goals in two games, including the franchise’s worst loss of the Crosby era in a 10-1 meltdown in Chicago on Thursday night that the NHL’s biggest star called “embarrassing.”

Time to table the talk of a “three-peat.” At this point, Pittsburgh would settle for playing three periods of competent hockey.

“It’s a tough lesson but we got to take something from it,” Crosby said. “Hopefully it’s a wakeup call from us.”

Read more: Penguins look to bounce back from early season wake-up call

Nashville didn’t create quite as big of a mess during a 4-3 setback in Boston on Thursday night. Still, the Predators never led and needed a pair of goals in the final 108 seconds to make the final score more competitive than their play.

“We need to be a lot better in a lot of areas,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “I think our entire group needs to be better.”

The last time the Predators played at PPG Paints Arena, they arrived with the Cup finals tied at 2. Any chance of upsetting the defending champions evaporated in the first period of Game 5, when the Penguins poured in three goals past Pekka Rinne on their way to a 6-0 victory to reclaim control of the series. Pittsburgh clinched its first Cup back in “Smashville” with a taut 2-0 triumph in Game 6, the series decided on Patric Hornqvist‘s goal with just 1:25 left in the third period.

“You have all those things, those memories in your head and I’m sure you think about them before the game,” Rinne said. “But still, it is a huge game right now for us – we are down 0-1 this season so we have to get back on track.”

Maybe, but not nearly as much as the Penguins. Pittsburgh raised its Cup banner Wednesday night but ended up falling to St. Louis 5-4 in overtime thanks in large part to a defense that surrendered wide swaths of the ice to the Blues. A night later, the Penguins were even worse against the Blackhawks. Chicago scored five goals in the first period alone and it only seemed to get worse.

Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray said his team only needed to “tighten up a bit.” Rather than practice Friday morning, the Penguins spent it reviewing the carnage of their worst defensive performance since allowing 10 goals to San Jose in 1996.

“Right now, more so than results, our coaching staff is concerned or focused on just the mindset or the commitment level to play the game the right way,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “When this team starts there, we’re competitive, we can play with anybody. Sometimes we get in certain modes where we’re trying to outscore teams instead of play the game the right way.”

In some ways Pittsburgh is still adjusting to a considerable roster makeover that saw the departure of a handful of key components to their historic run to consecutive titles, including center Nick Bonino, who signed a four-year deal with the Predators in the offseason.

Bonino admitted it’s going to be a little weird getting ready in the visitor’s dressing room and facing so many familiar faces.

“It’s always fun to try and beat them,” Bonino said. “I’m not dreading it. It should be a fun night. I’m glad it’s over early, there’s no build up for it.”

Golden Knights will have James Neal in the lineup for inaugural game

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The Vegas Golden Knights will soon begin their first NHL regular season game, and they will have James Neal in the lineup, per Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Neal, taken in the expansion draft following Nashville’s Stanley Cup Final appearance, suffered a hand injury during the Western Conference Final versus Anaheim and missed the beginning of training camp with the Golden Knights as a result.

Neal was placed on the injured-non roster list only three days ago, but has been activated and will be in the lineup versus the Dallas Stars. In fact, he’s listed as one of the starting forwards, as he faces his old team.

That’s good news for the Golden Knights, particularly with the offensive attack, given Neal has reached at least 20 goals scored in each of his nine NHL seasons, no matter where he has played.

Neal, 30, is in the final year of his contract, which carries a cap hit of $5 million. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Quick, Kings shut out Flyers

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The Philadelphia Flyers, playing for the second time in as many nights, just couldn’t find the equalizer in Thursday’s contest against the L.A. Kings.

Despite outshooting the Kings, including by a 17-5 margin in the third period, the Flyers dropped a 2-0 decision on the road in large part because of the play of L.A. netminder Jonathan Quick, who turned aside all 35 shots he faced for the shut out.

There have been a number of skaters scoring hat tricks through the first two days of the new season. In some cases, those hat tricks have made franchise history. Per the NHL, Quick became the third goalie in Kings franchise history to record a shut out in the opener, joining Rogie Vachon and Stephane Fiset in that category.

Trevor Lewis and Tyler Toffoli both scored for the Kings.

The Flyers continue their road trip on Saturday against the Anaheim Ducks, and then Tuesday against the Nashville Predators.

The Kings visit their California rivals, the San Jose Sharks, on Saturday.

Related: Kings ‘have a plan’ to keep Quick healthy this season