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Lomberg’s Line ‘Drives the Bus’ as Florida Panthers Beat Capitals

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Ryan Lomberg celebrates his game-winning goal against the Washington Capitals with his Florida teammates on Thursday in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)

SUNRISE — Ryan Lomberg has done just about everything but score for the Florida Panthers since he got his last goal on Nov. 14.

The 5-foot-9 forward has been a tone-setter for the Panthers both on and off the ice, mucking it up in the corners, defending his teammates any chance he gets, and playing with tenacity on both ends of the nice.

After 35 games, he finally got his goal, scoring the game-winner with 5:32 left to help the Florida Panthers beat the Washington Capitals 4-2 on Thursday night.

“[Lomberg] had such a strong impact in the game,” coach Paul Maurice said.

“It was leadership in a lot of different ways. Sometimes [his] line led in terms of style of play — their forecheck was really good and heavy but they didn’t cheat for it. They didn’t get in behind the puck, they didn’t give up anything to be as aggressive as they were on the forecheck. That’s a game that I don’t think we’ve played in a while… I thought that line drove the bus on.”

That has been the M.O. for Lomberg and his line all season, and the late-game dramatics did not change that.

When Lomberg was asked about his goal, the focus remained the same.

“I think the most important thing for us is that we’re winning hockey games,” Lomberg said. “So if we’re not scoring and not winning, it’s time to look in the mirror. But we’ve been doing a good job of winning games, so that’s the important thing. And it’s obviously good to contribute.”

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Lomberg has proven to be an essential key to the Panthers’ success on and off the ice, as have linemates Jonah Gadjovich and Kevin Stenlund.

Lomberg, in particular, is an energizing, culture-setting player his teammates have grown to love.

“He’s great. He’s awesome,” Sergei Bobrovsky said of Lomberg. “He is the soul of the locker room, and it’s great to see him score a big goal.”

But Lomberg and his linemates have proven they can be trusted in big situations.

Thursday, Maurice let them run against the Capitals’ top guns.

“We trust them,” Matthew Tkachuk said.

”They were playing against Alex Ovechkin’s line for chunks of the third, and they did such an unbelievable job. And for them to get that goal, there is such a bonus. It’s like all their hard work is paying off.

”All of the stuff they do in the locker room and on the ice doesn’t come up in the scoresheet, but they are so important for us.”

On Thursday, their impact was reflected pretty clearly on paper.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the fourth line led 18-2 in shot attempts, 10-0 in shots on goal, and 11-0 in scoring chances.

When they were on the ice against Ovechkin’s line down 2-1, Stenlund drew an elbowing penalty from Tom Wilson, leading to Sam Reinhart’s tying goal 12 seconds later.

“I thought that line drove the bus,” Maurice said.

“Gadjovich doesn’t make technical mistakes. He is where he is supposed to be as hard as he can. Stenlund is the first off the bench on the penalty kill, so he has to be able to do it, and Ryan can skate and hit.

”There’s no reason they can’t take some shifts against another line. And that’s a big line. It’s a heavy line with Wilson and Ovechkin there, so it’s not a pure speed line. It’s a lot of hard, grinding shifts, and they’re built to play that style of game, and there are stretches where they are our best line.

“They are our most effective line, so they should go out.”

ON DECK

COLORADO AVALANCHE @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App
  • Last Season: Split 1-1
  • This Season (Florida Leads 1-0) — At Colorado: Panthers 8, Avs 4 (Jan. 6). At Florida: Saturday.
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Colorado leads 27-13-5, 3 ties
  • Postseason Series: Colorado d. Florida 4-0, 1996 Stanley Cup Final
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Wednesday at Pittsburgh (TNT), 7:30 p.m.

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