The Florida Panthers (12-4-2) have been one of the NHL’s most dominant forces in 2021. Their 26 points had them first in the Central Division coming into the Wednesday afternoon matchup with the Dallas Stars (6-4-1). They had just beaten the Stars on Monday, but goalie Anton Khudobin still played well for the Stars, racking up 49 saves on 52 shots.
On Wednesday, Khudobin played even better; he saved all 43 shots on goal as he and the Stars shutout the Panthers, 3-0. The Panthers put a ton of pressure on the veteran goalie, outshooting the Stars 42-26 over the game. But they could not get any of them past Khudobin, who earned his 10th career shutout and 3rd against the Panthers.
Khudobin set the tone for the Stars in the first period, saving all 21 shots on goal in the period. He would handle the barrage of shots in style, diving across the crease to make multiple off-balance saves.
For the Stars, the win ends a 6-game losing streak giving them 16 points on the year; that brings them to a tie with Nashville for 6th in the Central Division standings. Even with the loss, the Panthers stay in 1st in the Central Division, just 1 point ahead of Carolina.
Stars take an early lead, then take advantage of a late gamble
For the Stars offense, defenseman John Klingberg got the game going early. Just 53 seconds into the game, Lingberg took a pass from Joe Pavelski and put it past goalie Chris Driedger for the early 1-0 lead.
That score would hold until the third period, as the Panthers controlled the puck for most of the second. It would be another defenseman, Esa Lindell, who put the Stars up 2 in the third period thanks to a Panthers penalty. Just after the power play expired, Lindell found an opening on the left side of the goal after a save, and he drilled the back of the net.
The Panthers had to gamble late, trailing by 2 goals with under 6 minutes to go. A Stars penalty allowed them an opportunity to draw within 1 goal, and they went all in. They pulled their goalie to get a 6-on-4 advantage, but the Stars’ penalty kill shut them down. As the penalty expired, the Stars got a breakaway opportunity, and they found Joel Kiviranta coming out of the penalty box for the empty-net goal.
Injury to Forsling forces him to leave
Panthers’ defenseman Gustav Forsling left the game with an apparent injury. He had recently been activated from the injured reserve with an upper-body injury. The setback could leave the Panthers’ defense looking to plug some holes as they go on to play their third straight game against the Stars on Thursday.
Stars @ Panthers, Thursday, February 25, Sunrise, FL