Entering Thursday night’s tilt, the St. Louis Blues were undefeated. But by the end of it, their perfect record was no longer.
Five days after their last game – a victory in their home opener over the Tampa Bay Lightning – the Panthers scored five straight goals to fend off the Blues, who had allowed just 9 goals in four games to start the year.
A quiet opening period gave way to a barrage of goals in the 2nd period, which included the first of the game by the Blues’ Paul Stastny on the power play.
Twelve seconds later, the Panthers’ number 12, Ian McCoshen, jumped up into the rush, took a pass from Connor Brickley, and rifled the puck past goaltender Jake Allen for his first career NHL goal.
Playing in just his sixth NHL game, the 22-year old defenseman was able to bring the Panthers to life with his goal in the middle frame.
“Pretty much disbelief,” said McCoshen of how he felt after scoring. “I was just trying to throw a puck on net. The coaches preach throw pucks on net and stuff like that. It’s obviously surreal, scoring your first NHL goal. The team was really supportive. It was a great team win, too.”
“I was wondering if I was ever going to score, honestly.”
Vincent Trocheck made it a 2-1 lead with a shorthanded breakaway goal just over a minute later and Jared McCann extended the Blues’ deficit to two with a perfect redirection from the slot five minutes later.
The Panthers kept on coming in the 3rd period.
Aaron Ekblad potted his first marker of the season on a perfect passing play with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, and Nick Bjugstad got on the board after driving wide and depositing the puck top-shelf on Allen, making it 5-1 in favor of Florida.
Between the two goals, Barkov appeared to net his first goal of the season. The puck slid around the net and to the side where the Finnish center snapped the puck into the stretched out glove of Allen which was just behind the goal line.
The referees called it ‘no goal’ on the ice, and went to the replay where they confirmed their initial call.
With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Blues defenseman Vince Dunn netted his first NHL goal with a wrister from the high slot, but the Panthers came away with the victory nonetheless.
In a bounce-back effort, Roberto Luongo made 37 saves on 39 shots en route to the 454th win of his career, tying him for fourth all-time with Curtis Joseph.
The 38-year old played a key role on the Panthers’ penalty kill which fought off a 5-on-3 disadvantage at the end of the 2nd period.
The Panthers finished 5-for-6 on the penalty kill and 1-for-5 on the power play, the latter of which had back-to-back opportunities to strike in the first five minutes of the 1st period.
“I think the boys did a great job on the 5-on- 3,” said Luongo. “[The Blues] really didn’t have much. They had that one set play that we kinda knew they liked to execute, so we were ready for it when it came. They got the shot off, but the guys did a good job in front clearing away the rebounds.”
Ekblad’s two-point effort leaves him 1 away from his 100th NHL point while McCann, Bjugstad, and Brickley also added two points each to their stat-lines.
For the Panthers, it was another solid win against a tough opponent in St. Louis. They weren’t as dominant in the scoring chance or shot attempt department as they were in their first two games of the season, but they made their opportunities count while keeping the Blues’ offensive threats at bay.
They’re also getting some secondary scoring from the middle and bottom half of the lineup which is a good sign and bodes well for them as the season moves on.
“I think we learned the past few years that the first few games of the season are very important down the stretch,” said Vincent Trocheck. “That refuse-to- lose attitude is going to be huge for us. I think we have a little big of swagger right now, a little bit of confidence.”
Things certainly won’t get any easier for the Panthers as they’ll practice on Friday before heading to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins on Saturday night.
“I think we’re just the tip of the iceberg right now for this club and we’re excited about the potential of this team,” said Luongo.
- Evgenii Dadonov logged a career-high 19:04 of ice time. He was moved off the top line in favor of Radim Vrbata in the 3rd period, but coach Bob Boughner said the lines should be back to normal for Saturday’s game.
- Ian McCoshen logged a career-high 16:26 of ice time.
- Owen Tippett, Denis Malgin, and Mackenzie Weegar were each scratched for the third consecutive game.