The Florida Panthers and the St. Louis Blues both came into tonight's game hot. The Panthers were cooled off by the time the final horn blew. Backed by 20 saves (on only 21 shots) by Jaroslav Halak, the Blues took care of the Panthers 4-1.
The Panthers are now 0 for their last 15 power play chances, going scoreless in two chances tonight. The Blues power play was just as ineffective, going 0-for-3. The main reason for the Panther's sixth regulation loss this season can be distilled down to mistakes in the defensive zone, as two of the first three St. Louis goals were directly off Panther turnovers.
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Both teams came out swinging, neither letting the other get set up very good for the first few minutes. Tomas Bergenheim put a good hit on a Blues defenseman, starting a rush that ended with a "just wide" shot for Stephen Weiss. Kulikov got flattened into the boards with a no-call from the officials. Seconds later, the Blues Kris Russell nearly put one past Jose Theodore with a nasty spin move, pulling the shot just wide. Tomas Fleischmann took a shot from the point, but the puck was gloved by Halak. Tomas Kopecky threw his hat in the ring, looking strong and tricky with a quick steal and a SOG. Jack Skille was back on ice for the Cats, but wasn't skating with the intensity we have seen from him in the past. Brian Campbell then fed Tim Kennedy the puck, trying to clear it out of the zone, but the pass was too hot to handle, as it bounced off Kennedy's stick directly onto David Backes, who promptly wristed it over Theodore's left shoulder for his fifth goal of the season to put the Blues on top, 1-0. Soon after, Evgeny Dadonov was mauled in the St. Louis zone but managed to come out of the scrum with the puck, putting another SOG into Halak's glove. Mike Santorelli nearly got into a fight with Russell when the Blues Roman Polak shoved him onto the ice. Kevin Shattenkirk was soon after awarded a two minute holding minor for mugging Kris Versteeg. Versteeg put a nice slapshot on net, but was turned away by Halak. On the other end, T.J. Oshie missed putting the puck in a wide open net to extend the Blues' lead. Erik Gudbranson pummelled a St. Louis forward into the boards and the Blues got three quick SOG's, but no more goals. One minute later, Mike Santorelli intercepted a pass from Jason Arnott and scored his third of the season, unassisted, pulling the Panthers even, at 1-1. After the goal, the Panthers were skating a little better, with Shawn Matthias and Kennedy playing tic-tac-DOH, barely missing the open net on a breakaway. Dadonov looked pesky, tenacious, and effective for most of the first period, harrying the Blues in their own zone, producing a surprise SOG which was easily turned away by Halak. For about two minutes after that, the Versteeg-Weiss-Fleischmann line, along with Campbell and Garrison assaulted the Blues in their zone, putting several shots on net but again coming away empty handed. Just before the end of the first, Sean Bergenheim got a two-minute minor for roughing and the Blues' Scott Nichol was called for a five-minute major and a game misconduct for spearing.
The Panthers Controlled the puck from the beginning of the second, with two minutes of 4-on-4 followed by a three-minute power play. Versteeg started by getting another near miss shot-attempt, which was followed by the Blues controlling the Panthers for the next five minutes. Even though the Cats had the man advantage, they were outshot by the Blues 3-1 on their long power play. After that, Kopecky fired a wrister on net as Dmitry Kulikov got levelled by Patrik Berglund. The Panthers had another bad turnover in their own zone and the Blues again capitalized, with an unassisted goal by Kris Porter, his first of the season. Former Blue Mike Weaver put a nice wrister on net, but Halak again came up strong for the Blues. Oshie then scored a goal for the Blues, but it was waved off by the officials, as Oshie's backside was in the crease. Versteeg then took a hard shot behind the net and nearly got into a fight, drawing a two-minute minor. Shattenkirk sat for St. Louis. The teams then skated 4-on-4 for about a minute before the Blues were called for too many men, resulting in the Panthers second power play of the night. The 4-on-3 action saw Florida's best chance of the second, with Campbell putting it right on Weiss' tape for a one timer that Halak somehow kick saved. The story of the second was Halak shutting the Panthers down.
The Panthers came out flat, not recording a shot on goal for the first 8:20 of the third period. Kopecky was called for a high sticking penalty on Russell. Matthias and Bergenheim had a shorthanded breakout that had a lot of potential, but they didn't manage to get a shot on the net. Kulikov then took a penalty for cross checking Backes into the Panthers net, but again Florida's PK stood tall, keeping the Cats in the game. Weaver then laid another hit on Backes, followed by a Kopecky breakaway that came up short. Russell then scored his fourth goal of the season, assisted by Vladimir Sobotka and Jamie Langenbrunner. Matthias was then called for hooking, giving the Blues another power play. The Panthers stood tall, and refused to let the Blues get set up. However, the Cats couldn't get anything going on the other side of the ice. Backes scored his sixth of the season on an empty netter with just under two minutes remaining.
Dadonov, Kopecky, Campbell, Versteeg, Fleischmann all looked pretty good.
Kennedy's bad turnover in the first set the tone for the whole contest.
The Panthers are coming home for a four-game stand starting with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night.