Despite coming a whisker away from a getting an early goal from Tomas Kopecky, Florida didn't get off to the best of starts, and after St. Louis failed to convert on a long 5-on-3 opportunity, the Blues made them pay with a couple of fortuitous deflection goals to take a 2-0 lead after one period.
Maxim Lapierre opened the scoring at 11:17 when he threw the puck in front and it went in off the skate of the back-checking Vincent Trocheck. Chris Porter and Ryan Reaves picked up the helpers on the play.
St. Louis would add to their lead later in the frame. Soon after Jori Lehtera absorbed a big hit on the boards from Erik Gudbranson, he would find Ian Cole wide-open in the high slot. Cole drove the puck home with some help from Jonathan Huberdeau's stick. Huberdeau would have been wiser to let the shot go through to Roberto Luongo instead of trying to knock it out of the air. Blues' leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko got the second assist on Cole's third of the season.
The Panthers got things going in the middle frame and completely seized control of play. Nick Bjugstad fired home his twelfth goal at the 15:21 mark on a 2-on-1 break to halve the deficit. Tomas Fleischmann combined with Gudranson to set up the goal, extending his point-streak to three games.
After firing 18 shots on goal in the second, Florida kept coming in the third, but were denied by Martin Brodeur until Aaron Ekblad bagged the game-tying goal with 5:06 remaining. Ekblad took a cross-ice laser from Jussi Jokinen and buried it behind the legendary goaltender, making his third appearance since signing with St. Louis, to tie the game at deuces. Brian Campbell drew the second assist on the rookie's fifth goal.
It looked like the gritty Panthers would salvage at least a point in The Lou, but it was not to be. The Blues took control of the puck in Cats' zone and Porter redirected Barret Jackman's shot from the point past Luongo for the winner.
Paul Stastny would tack on an unassisted empty-net goal to complete the scoring,
After a bit of a rough start, the Panthers really tilted the ice and took it to a good Blues team for the majority of the game. Rising young stars Bjugstad and Ekblad scored again, and both the penalty kill and goaltender Luongo came through to help keep the Cats in the game after they fell behind by two. That's the good news. Now, here's the bad. The Panthers struggled to get going in the opening frame. At some point they have to realize games consist of three periods, not just two. They took a lot of shots again (34), but only came up two goals. Other players, besides Bjugstad and Ekblad, have got to step up and start finishing. While the Cats have done an admirable job of picking up points this season, the lack of balanced scoring, and little to nothing from the power play, is keeping them from putting together winning streaks, something they need to do to not only climb into a playoff spot, but to stay there once ensconced. The Panthers are off until Friday, when they battle the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
Dots & Ties
- Martin Brodeur delivered a fine performance in his home debut for the Blues, taking first star honors for his 32-save effort. Brodeur was absolutely stellar in the second, stopping 17 of the 18 shots he faced.
- Tomas Kopecky led all players with five shots on goal. It looked like he may have beaten Brodeur early for his second of the season, but there was no video evidence the puck crossed the goal.
- Roberto Luongo finished up with 24 stops, including a few tough ones that kept the Blues from buidling a bigger lead before the Panthers got it in gear.
- Dave Bolland returned after a long absence and finished with 3 hits and a -1 rating in 15:45 TOI. Bolland went 7 of 14 in the faceoff dot.
- Big game for St. Louis winger Chris Porter, who collected his first points of the season with an assist and the game-winning goal.
- Aaron Ekblad's goal extended his point streak to a career-best five games. What more can be said about the rookie? Kid is money.
- Nick Bjugstad's goal was Florida's first against St. Louis since October 17, 2011. That's a long time.
- David Backes left the game after taking a shot in the mouth from teammate T.J. Oshie in the first, returned wearing a full cage in second, only to leave again in third.
- Check out St. Louis Game Time for more Cats - Blues.