ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Blues are hoping to take advantage of a schedule that includes 11 of 16 games at home during the month of December. So far, they aren’t off to a good start.
The Blues looked listless for much of three periods during their 3-1 loss to the visiting Florida Panthers on Tuesday night at Scottrade Center.
“Everything's work-based and when you play with a work base, you play in straight lines, you don't play cute, you get on the grind, you wear teams down,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “That's how we're built; we didn't want to play that way today. We didn't give Florida near the respect they deserve. … It’s disappointing. The next two days give us a chance to really work and get on the grind and that's what we'll do and hopefully get our game back in order for the weekend.”
The Blues fell to 4-4-2 over their last 10 games — they have alternated wins and losses over the past eight contests — after an impressive 11-3-1 start to the season.
St. Louis started out slow on Tuesday and never really got in rhythm during the first 40 minutes. The visitors seized control in the second period with three goals in the final 7 minutes 42 seconds.
“It wasn't a barn burner,” Blues forward Steve Ott said. “It was sloppy all over. They got some fortunate bounces given by a few guys, including myself on that one. It's one of those games you have to throw out the window and regroup quickly and be ready to hit the road.”
Derek MacKenzie scored twice for the Panthers (11-9-4, 26 points), who snapped a six-game losing streak against the Blues. Brandon Pirri also scored. Roberto Luongo made 29 saves, including 17 in the third period when the Blues started to get going offensively.
“It was a great win for us,” Florida coach Gerard Gallant said. “We battled hard against a real good hockey team over there. We got some breaks and MacKenzie came up big for us tonight. And obviously Luongo played really good in the net. So we had a good team effort again tonight.”
The Panthers got it going in the second half of the second period.
Pirri scored on a breakaway with 7:42 left after a Vladimir Tarasenko turnover in the offensive zone. Then MacKenzie scored just 13 seconds later on a slap shot by MacKenzie after a turnover by Ott.
The Blues answered 21 seconds later when a shot from Backes ricocheted off the skate of Dylan Olsen. The goal, assisted by rookies Robby Fabbri and Colton Parayko, was the sixth of the season for the St. Louis captain.
MacKenzie added to the Panthers’ lead at the 16:41 mark of the second with his third goal of the season, a wrister from the slot after a turnover by Kevin Shattenkirk in the neutral zone.
St. Louis pelted Luongo with 17 shots in the third period, but couldn’t slip one past him.
“Kind of a sloppy game, especially through neutral zone,” Shattenkirk said. “They played a pretty passive system and did a good job of clogging things up. That's where we really looked out of sorts, it didn't give us a chance to get our speed going into the zone and establish a forecheck. Everything else was just a little off tonight.”
The Blues are back in action on the road on Friday against the New York Islanders and then have a quick turnaround and will host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night at Scottrade Center.