The Florida Panthers hadn't won in St. Louis, or at all against since the Blues, since beating them back on Halloween 2009, but unlikely hero Derek MacKenzie potted two goals to led the suddenly streaking Cats to a 3-1 win at Scottrade Center.
After combining for just seven shots (Florida 4 - St. Louis 3) in a tightly-played first period, the game finally opened up in the second and Brandon Pirri staked the visiting Panthers to the lead with a nifty breakaway goal at the 12:18 mark.
Willie Mitchell broke up a pass attempt by Vladimir Tarasenko that was quickly collected and sent blue line-to-blue line by Aleksander Barkov. Pirri took the Barkov feed and beat Jake Allen five-hole with a backhander along the ice.
MacKenzie scored his first of the night a scant thirteen seconds later, after Steve Ott lost control of a pass in the slot and the fourth-line center was there to immediately slap the puck past an unprepared Allen.
The Blues got on the board twenty-seconds after MacKenzie's goal. St. Louis gained the zone on a nice entry pass from Colton Parayko to fellow rookie Robby Fabbri. Fabbri found David Backes in the top of the left circle and his turnaround shot went off the skate of Dylan Olsen before finding the twine behind Roberto Luongo.
Florida restored its two-goal lead with 3:19 left in the middle frame, with MacKenzie bagging a second unassisted marker. This time, the veteran pivot picked off a lazy Kevin Shattenkirk pass in the neutral zone and sped into the St. Louis end before driving a shot by Allen, who was replaced at the start of the third period by Brian Elliott.
The third period would belong to Luongo, with the veteran keeper turning away all 17 St. Louis shots, including a big stop on Tarasenko, to finish his night with 29 saves. Paul Stastny had a golden opportunity to pull the Blues within one with time running out, but caught iron instead.
With the Panthers taking the first two of this tough five-game road trip, the club is primed to make this trek a smashing success. Stops in Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey remain before the Cats return home to face division rival Ottawa next week. Four of a possible ten points are already in the bag, how many more can they bring back to Sunrise?
News & Notes
- The two-goal performance was the second of Derek MacKenzie's NHL career. The first time he did it was on March 12, 2011, when he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets. DMac had a shorthanded breakaway earlier in the second period that was denied.
- MacKenzie's linemate Quinton Howden racked up a team-high five hits and finished with +2 rating.
- Jake Allen stopped 12 of the 15 shots he faced over the opening forty minutes. Replacement Brian Elliott turned aside all 8 shots the Panthers threw at him in the third period, including clutch saves on Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith.
- Brandon Pirri paced the Cats with four shots on goal. Pirri now has four points (2G/2A) in his last five games.
- Shawn Thornton subbed in for Logan Shaw and dished out two hits and finished the game with a +2 rating. Dave Bolland filled in for injured center Nick Bjugstad and went 5-for-10 on draws, blocked a shot, had a hit and finished -1.
- The Panthers managed to hold the dangerous Vladimir Tarasenko off the score sheet. Tarasenko did finish with a game-high (tied with Alex Pietrangelo) five shots on goal.
- Florida failed on its only power play opportunity in the game. Away from the BB&T Center, the Cats PP has gone a dreadful 3-for-36 on the season. That needs to change, pronto.
- The fine folks at war-on-ice have the advanced stats breakdown for you here.
- Check out St. Louis Game Time for the other side of Florida's first of two meetings with the Blues.
Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)