The 2014-15 Dallas Stars’ greatest strength was their offense and biggest weakness was arguably between the pipes. The signing of former San Jose Sharks netminder
Antti Niemi was supposed to help solve the goaltending issue in 2015-16, but if his debut in the Stars net was any indication, Niemi is going to be contributing on the other side of the ice, too. In Thursday’s contest against Pittsburgh, Niemi got the nod for Dallas and proceeded to shutout the Penguins high-flying offense. In closing the doors on the likes of
Evgeni Malkin and
Phil Kessel, Niemi also managed to outscore every player on Pittsburgh’s roster thanks to assists on the Stars first two goals of the 2015-16 campaign. His first assist came thanks to a blocker save on
Beau Bennett. After turning the shot away, the puck ended up on the stick of
Ales Hemsky, who made a slick cross-ice pass to
Mattias Janmark to give the rookie his first career goal:
And the second was again thanks to an effort from Hemsky. Niemi slowed up a puck behind the net, which was then taken by
Alex Goligoski before being dished off to Hemsky, who flew down ice and buried a wristshot behind Penguins netminder
Neither are highlight-reel assists, but it did help Niemi set an NHL record. Thanks to his Thursday performance, he’s the
first goaltender in league history to record two assists and a shutout in the same game. NHL.com doesn’t officially list Niemi among the leading scorers, but following all action Thursday, is actually sitting in a tie for sixth in NHL scoring.
Entering Thursday, Niemi had recorded eight assists over his career. He wasn’t quite intending to hit the score sheet against the Penguins, either. Technically, Niemi is now on pace to record a 164-assist season. We have a feeling that
might not happen.