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Stolarz ‘Shuts Door’ on Sabres, Florida Panthers Keep Rolling

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Anthony Stolarz celebrates his 45-save shutout of the host Buffalo Sabres with defenseman Gus Forsling on Thursday night. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Anthony Stolarz had a night he is not soon to forget for the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.

Stolarz, playing in yet another back-to-back, was completely up to the task as he made 45 saves in earning his first shutout in two years with a 4-0 win in Buffalo.

The 45 saves were three short of his career-high of the 48 he made in San Jose in 2022.

“He made a few huge saves that probably had a better chance of going in,’’ said Ryan Lomberg, who scored the game’s final goal on a rare power play appearance. “He did a great job, has been doing it all year for us. He comes in when his number is called and shuts the door.”

Stolarz is now 7-2-1 away from Sunrise as Florida extended its franchise record with its 10th consecutive road win.

During that streak, Stolarz won in Nashville, Long Island and now Buffalo.

Florida has not lost on the road since Dec. 18 in Calgary; the streak started in Tampa on Dec. 27 where the Panthers return on Saturday.

“Maybe the hotel beds are a little nicer,” Stolarz told Katie Engleson on the Bally postgame. “It is just fun going out there and being able to play. This was the second of a back-to-back, so, guys can be a little tired. Being able to give a performance like this means a lot to me and I am sure it means a lot to them as well.”

Thursday marked the first shutout of the season for Stolarz, but fourth for the Panthers as Sergei Bobrovsky has the others.

Florida coach Paul Maurice said that while the Panthers usually play pretty strong in front of their goalies, Stolarz was the difference on Thursday.

The Panthers were coming off a 5-2 win in Pittsburgh the night before, so, they may not have had a full tank of fuel in this one.

Stolarz’s 45 saves were third-most in a Florida shutout: Craig Anderson had 53 on March 2, 2008; James Reimer had 46 on March 15, 2018.

“He was so good and a key piece to the win,” Maurice said. “I think we spent a lot (Wednesday); that was a hard, really fast game. To come in against a tough offensive group … we didn’t have the legs we normally would in this game.

“Our goaltender was asked to do something that you need if you need to get on a run, a roll. He has been solid, so good for us. We have played so good in front of our goaltending this season, sometimes you don’t notice how well they have played for us. Tonight, you did.”

Stolarz did not have much to do early on as the Panthers had the early jump as is common for a team coming off a game the night before.

Florida controlled the play against Buffalo, but surprise starter Eric Comrie (27 saves) was strong throughout and only gave up a Carter Verhaeghe goal in the opening 20.

In the second, it was Buffalo flying up and down the ice as it set the pace.

Florida was able to keep up despite being outshot 17-6 and took a 2-0 lead into the third when Anton Lundell got a piece of a Matthew Tkachuk point shot on a delayed call.

Comrie was strong again in the third — but Stolarz played, perhaps, his best period of the season in that final 20 as he turned back all 18 he faced.

Buffalo ended the night outshooting the Panthers 45-31.

The Panthers did give their goalie some serious breathing room late in the third as Verhaeghe got his second of the night into an empty net off a pass-off from Sam Reinhart.

Lomberg ended it with 10.2 seconds left by scoring Florida’s lone power play of the night as part of what he likes to call Florida’s third power play unit.

Speaking of special teams, the Panthers’ penalty kill was strong again, holding Buffalo scoreless on two chances.

“I thought we played pretty well and Stoli made a bunch of awesome saves,” Verhaeghe said. “We played good defense and grinded it out. When we got our chance, we buried them. Good team win.”

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

  • When: Saturday, 5 p.m.
  • Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM 2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series — At Tampa Bay: Panthers 3, Lightning 2 (Dec. 27); Saturday. At Florida: March 16.
  • Last season: Even 2-2
  • All-time regular season series: Florida leads 76-50-19, 10 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Tuesday vs. Ottawa, 7 p.m.

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