What a difference a few days can make. In Thursday night’s 4-1 loss the St Louis Blues, the Florida Panthers didn’t much resemble the team that ripped apart the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night. In that game, the Panthers looked as if they could do wrong. Thursday, it was all they could do to string two quality passes together. Turnovers were the story in this game as three St Louis goals came as the result of sloppy play with the puck.
In the first, Tim Kennedy couldn’t corral a Brian Campbell pass and the deflection found its way to David Backes‘ stick, who quickly wristed it past Jose Theodore to make it 1-0 six minutes into the game. Howeveer, the Blues gave that goal right back to the Panthers seven minutes later when Mike Santorelli grabbed a St Louis turnover and fired a wicked wrist shot of his own past Jaroslav Halak. The teams would spend the rest of period trading turnovers as they combined for only 12 shots, six a piece.
Despite having a three minute power play early in the second (stemming from a five minute major and game misconduct from Scott Nichol for spearing), the Cats couldn’t grab the lead and it would come back to haunt them. With six minutes gone, Chris Porter grabbed yet another Panthers turnover and turned and fire a shot past Theodore for a 2-1 lead. With about five minutes left in the period, it appeared T J Oshie had given the Blues a 3-1 lead when he put back a rebound but the officials were very generous in saying he didn’t give Theodore any chance to make the save and waved it off. The replay showed it to be a questionable call as Oshie didn’t make much contact, but the call helped give the Panthers another lifeline in a game they really didn’t deserve to be in.
The Panthers didn’t help their chances for a comeback in the third as they took two early penalties from Tomas Kopecky and Dmitry Kulikov. While the Florida penalty kill held, the Panthers were still unable to mount a consistent offensive threat against Halak. The task of a comeback was made even more uphill as Vladimir Sobotka (insert your jokes from season 2 of The Wire here) laced a perfect pass past Kulikov to Kris Russell on a 2-on-1 breakaway that he easily tapped in to make it 3-1. All hope was put way down in a hole when Backes blistered a slap shot from inside his own blueline into an empty Florida net with just under two minutes to play.
The Blues have played well since Ken Hitchcock took over as coach, and Thursday was no different. For the Panthers, it was a low point after hitting the high of Tuesday’s win. Particularly troubling is recent futility of the power play. The Cats, who have been solid with the man advantage all season, haven’t scored a PP goal in the past three games and have gone 0-for-14 in that stretch. It’s something that needs to get back on track if the Panthers are to have any success in the upcoming four-game Thanksgiving feast homestand. The good news for them is that the kind of games they played on Thursday have been extremely rare this season, unlike years past where they would string together 4-5 games with similar effort and results.
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