|@ Panthers (32-17-6)||1||1||1||3|
The Blues brought the pressure early on, with five shots on goal in less than four minutes, even if it meant having David Backes hang out inside Luongo’s net for a while. The Panthers only had one shot on goal to the Blues’ five, and it went off the post. Yet, the shots on goal weren’t indicative of ability to score and the Panthers proved that to be true after a Derek MacKenzie wrister. The goal was assisted by Shawn Thornton and the Panthers were on the board. Suddenly, the Panthers had seven shots on goal and were absolutely on fire. The Blues were playing very well too and the gameplay seemed fairly even, so it only made sense that David Backes had to slip the puck past Luongo to tie the game up. The next Blues goal was not as soft as the first one, but it still didn’t make it any easier for the Panthers and their fans to swallow. Jaden Schwartz was the goal scorer. Vincent Trocheck was penalized for delay of game and the Blues scored yet again. Robby Fabbri scored this one. At the end of the period, the Blues led 3-1 and the also held the lead in shots on goal 13-8. The Panthers had a couple of great moments this period, but their defense was lacking and it certainly showed. They also did not generate offense in the second half of the period. After their post-goal jaunt, the Panthers only had one shot on goal. If they tighten up their defense, the Cats have a decent chance of coming back to win this game but if they don’t, it’s going to be a tough 40 minutes to come.
Al Montoya started in net for the Panthers and David Backes was penalized for tripping so a change seemed to be in the works for the Panthers. This penalty was killed but a new power play sprouted from it, when the Blues had too many men on the ice. The Panthers had a lot of good opportunities but Brian Elliott was a brick wall during those four minutes. The Panthers couldn’t score, but the Blues could. None other than Vladimir Tarasenko was able to figure out Montoya to make the game 4-1. Reilly Smith nearly put the Panthers within two but Elliott made an unreal save to prevent that. This put a spark in the Panthers and specifically Aaron Ekblad,who went on to score on a slap shot assisted by Jonathan Huberdeau and Jaromir Jagr. There would be some 4-on-4 action after Brandon Pirri and Troy Brouwer were both penalized for slashing. Nothing resulted from this 4-on-4. At the end of the period, the Panthers were still down 4-2 and also trailed in shots on goal 22-19. Despite the Blues’ apparent lead, this period was much better for the Cats than the last. They were able to get more shots on net and the fact that the Blues only scored one goal this period and not three is always a plus. Still, the Panthers need to shoot the puck instead of passing or they will not be able to win this game.
Neither team seemed to edge out the other in the first five minutes of the third period. The Panthers kept trying to gain some momentum but never really could. That is, until just over halfway through the period when Jonathan Huberdeau scored the magical third goal for the Panthers, assisted by Brian Campbell and Jaromir Jagr. The goal was much deserved because Huberdeau had been very puck unlucky tonight thus far. This was a peculiar situation because the Panthers are usually in the lead when the third goal comes. Nonetheless, the “Lets Go Panthers” chants were booming. They were silenced by an Alexander Steen goal. Gallant challenged the call, saying that the puck was offsides, but the goal stood and the Panthers were down by two with just under eight minutes remaining. The Panthers would have the chance to continue their long-standing comeback when Robby Fabbri was sent to the sin bin on a slashing call. The penalty was killed but it was not for lack of trying. In fact, the Panthers got so close to scoring that the goal horn went off. With three minutes left, it was apparent that the Panthers were going to lose their first game in regulation in which they scored three or more goals. This did happen.
Derek MacKenzie started off the scoring with a wrist shot that was unsurprisingly the product of hard work on his part. Aaron Ekblad followed that goal in the second with a blast from the point. Jonathan Huberdeau scored the third goal and also assisted the Ekblad goal. Jaromir Jagr assisted those two goals. Without the performance of these players, this game would have been a total blowout in favor of the Blues.
The Panthers will be back at it at home tomorrow night, February 13th, at 7:00 pm ET against the Nashville Predators. Stay tuned for a COTP preview and recap of that game.