Rookie G Anthony Stolarz rescues Philadelphia Flyers after Michal Neuvirth collapses

By Chuck Gormley, The Sports Xchange
Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth (30) makes a save on a shot. During Saturday's game, Michal Neuvirth collapsed in the crease. File photo by Mark Goldman/UPI
Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michal Neuvirth (30) makes a save on a shot. During Saturday's game, Michal Neuvirth collapsed in the crease. File photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo

PHILADELPHIA -- Rookie goaltender Anthony Stolarz was in Scranton, Pa., about 125 miles north of Philadelphia, when he was informed the Flyers would need him to suit up as an emergency backup to Michal Neuvirth.

Stolarz took his equipment off the Lehigh Valley Phantoms team bus, hopped in a car and was driven to Philadelphia, where he arrived at the Wells Fargo Center at 6:55 p.m. Saturday for a 7 p.m. game against the New Jersey Devils.


A few minutes later, Stolarz was forced into action when Neuvirth collapsed in his goal crease and was taken to a nearby hospital for observation.

"I never experienced anything like that," Stolarz said after recording 26 saves in a 3-0 win over the Devils. "It was a whirlwind of emotions and I'm glad Neuvy's OK and we were able to get a win for him."


According to Flyers general manager Ron Hextall, Neuvirth was taken to Pennsylvania Hospital for observation.

"Everything so far has been good," Hextall said. "Everything is positive."

Brayden Schenn, Colin McDonald and Jordan Weal scored goals for the Flyers (38-32-8, 84 points), who won for the fourth straight time and remained six points behind the Boston Bruins (90 points) for the second wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Flyers and Bruins have four games remaining apiece, so any combination of a Flyers loss or a Bruins win would eliminate the Flyers from playoff contention.

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Cory Schneider stopped 34 shots for the Devils, who lost for the sixth straight time (0-4-2) and fell to 27-37-14 overall, last in the Eastern Conference.

"I thought we didn't come out to compete in the first period and it took us a little first bit and obviously it got more and more intense as the game went on," Devils center Blake Coleman said.

Stolarz, 23, grew up in Edison, N.J., as a Devils fan and learned he would be suiting up for the Flyers two hours before the game, when goaltender Steve Mason became ill.


The Flyers pressured the Devils early and, with Travis Zajac in the penalty box for hooking, grabbed a 1-0 lead 7:28 into the game on Schenn's 24th goal of the season and team-high 17th on the power play. Schenn was at the side of the Devils net when Claude Giroux's errant shot caromed off the end boards onto his stick for an open netter.

Nine seconds later, on a faceoff in the Devils' zone, Neuvirth collapsed in his goal crease and lay motionless on the ice for close to two minutes.

"You don't know what it is and it's really frightening to see, so it's good to hear he's doing better," Schneider said. "I've had a few moments where you're dehydrated a bit and you get sort of lightheaded, so hopefully that's the case. But again, it was scary stuff to see."

Neuvirth later sat up and appeared groggy as he was carted off the ice on a stretcher.

"It's obviously pretty scary when you see your goaltender just collapse like that," Flyers left wing Chris VandeVelde said. "I'm not sure really what happened, if he fainted or got lightheaded or what, but it was pretty scary and I'm glad to see he was moving and functioning when he was rolled off the ice."


McDonald, who was recalled by the Flyers on Friday as an injury replacement for Matt Read, gave the Flyers a 2-0 lead with his first NHL goal since Nov. 27, 2015. McDonald, 32, raced past Devils defenseman Andy Greene, eluded a poke-check by Schneider, and scored his 20th career NHL goal and first as a Flyer.

The Flyers made it 3-0 midway through the second period on Weal's eighth goal of the season and first career power-play goal.

With 24 seconds remaining in the game the Flyers attempted to get emergency backup Eric Semborski into the game but were denied because an NHL rule states that an emergency backup can only enter a game due to injury to another goalie.

Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said he was unaware of the rule, but praised Stolarz for his effort.

"He didn't get to the rink and probably have his gear on until the drop of the puck, so it shows his maturity," Hakstol said. "Just real good solid poise going in there in that situation, especially under those circumstances."

NOTES: With RW Matt Read sidelined 4-6 weeks with an upper-body injury, Colin McDonald played his first game with the Flyers on a fourth line with C Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and LW Chris VandeVelde. ... F Mike Vecchione, who signed a free-agent contract with the Flyers on Friday following his senior season with Union College, practiced on Saturday but did not play. He is doubtful for Sunday night's game against the New York Rangers but could see his first NHL action on Tuesday night at New Jersey. ... Devils C Jacob Josefson (upper-body injury) has resumed skating but sat out his 16th straight game. RW Devante Smith-Pelly (upper-body injury, day-to-day) sat out his 11th straight contest ... The Flyers return to action Sunday night when they visit the New York Rangers. ... The Devils are off until Tuesday when they host the Flyers.


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