After falling behind the St. Louis Blues 1-0, the Florida Panthers launched a season-high 21 shots in the the third period at goaltender Brian Elliott and needed every one of them. Nick Bjugstad bagged his twentieth goal with 73 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime, but the Blues ended up besting the Cats 2-1 in the shootout. Florida has now dropped three straight, scoring just two goals over the span.
The first period was a scoreless affair that saw St. Louis outshoot the Panthers 14-7. Roberto Luongo made huge stops on David Backes and Vladimir Tarasenko to keep the tilt tied.
Jaden Schwartz notched the game's first goal at the 11:48 mark of the middle frame. An open Schwartz took a pass in the circle from Jori Lehtera and blew a wrist shot past Luongo short side. Tarasenko collected the second assist on Schwartz' twentieth of the campaign.
The Cats dominated the third period, but could not solve Elliott. The Blues keeper phoned home key stops on Aaron Ekblad's big drive and Aleksander Barkov's rebound attempt with just over nine minutes remaining. The glove save on Barkov was of the jaw-dropping variety. Elliott finished the first sixty-five minutes with 40 saves.
Bjugstad finally got the Panthers on the board with time running out. Ekblad unleashed a shot from the point that Barkov deflected wide of the net. The puck came off the boards to Bjugstad who fired it from a sharp angle off Elliott's skate into the net to assure the needy Cats point number sixty on the season.
The goalies continued to shine in the shootout, with Tarasenko and Brad Boyes being the only converters in the first four rounds. Lehtera opened round five with a slick move to beat Luongo five-hole. It was up to Jussi Jokinen to keep the game going, but his shot caught the left post, giving the red-hot Blues the bonus point.
Odds & Sods
- The win was St. Louis' sixth in a row over Florida. The last time the Cats won was on October 31, 2009.
- The Panthers have now dropped four straight decisions in the shootout. The last time the Cats took a skills competition was on December 22nd, versus the Pittsburgh Penguins.
- In addition to hitting the twenty-goal mark for the first time, Nick Bjugstad had a game-high seven shots and went 12-of-16 in the face-off dot.
- Bjugstad's goal prevented Brian Elliott from tying the St. Louis franchise record for shutouts. Elliott remains stuck on 19, one behind Jaroslav Halak.
- The Panthers went 0-for-2 on the power play while the Blues didn't get a man-advantage attempt. Derek MacKenzie, who had five hits, took Florida's only penalty, but it came paired with Ian Cole's coincidental roughing call.
- Roberto Luongo, who finished with 32 saves, delivered another quality start that the Cats wasted due to their lack of finishing ability. Luongo looked very frustrated after the game.
- Jori Lehtera's game-winner came on his first career shootout attempt in the NHL.
- Shane O'Brien tagged in for the suspended blueliner Dmitry Kulikov. O'Brien was on the ice for the Schwartz goal and logged 145:26 TOI.
- Florida, who have picked up points in five straight home games, finished up a tough six-game stretch against Western Conference foes with a 2-2-2 record.
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