If (and that’s a rather big if) the Florida Panthers end up just missing the playoffs like they did last season, they will look back at last night’s 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues as one of the main culprits.
The Panthers held a two-goal lead early in the third period and let it slip away, costing the club a big two points in the standings.
Much like the last game against Vegas, the Cats played a very good first period and took the lead late in the frame when Henrik Borgstrom swept a loose puck by Jordan Binnington after Aaron Ekblad’s shot deflected off Frank Vatrano at 18:55.
Unfortunately, also like the Vegas game, the Cats didn’t do a whole lot offensively in the last two periods and this time it cost them big time. Florida managed just 13 shots on goal in the final forty minutes.
Aleksander Barkov banged in a Mike Hoffman pass from behind the net after Keith Yandle shot went wide 30 seconds into the third to convert a power-play opportunity and put the Panthers up by a deuce.
Looking good, right? Wrong!
The goal seemed to energize the Blues who halved the deficit 2:35 later and went on to pepper James Reimer with 19 shots in the final frame.
Colton Parayko got the Blues on the board when he used his long reach to beat Jamers Reimer rather easily on a wraparound with the lone assist going to Oskar Sundqvist.
Reimer had stopped Parayko seconds earlier, but Denis Malgin failed to control the rebound allowing Sundqvist to tip the puck back to the rangy defenseman.
Ryan O’Reilly picked the puck out of a mass of bodies in front and fired it through Reimer legs at 12:09 to tie the game. Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn drew the assists on the goal, O’Reilly’s 20th, which came after another initial save by Reimer.
Disaster came for the Cats with 3:53 remaining when Ekblad failed to handle a pass from Mike Matheson. The puck was seized by Vince Dunn in the neutral zone and he proceeded to toe-drag his way by Ekblad and use Matheson as a screen before putting a shot off Matheson and by Reimer.
In addition to melting down in their own end in the third, the Panthers were done in by near-finishes. Evgenii Dadonov failed to stuff the puck over the goal line in the first, Vincent Trocheck caught the cross bar in the second and Mike Hoffman rang the iron twice, including a bullet drive that would have tied it with 77 seconds left on the clock.
The Blues are 2-18-3 when trailing after two periods this season, with both victories coming against the Panthers. Painful...
Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)