Tuesday night had all the earmarks the Panthers were looking for in their first road game in nearly three weeks.
The Panthers were getting solid goaltending from Roberto Luongo, they were defensively sound against the struggling St. Louis Blues, the penalty kill was on the money again for a fourth straight game, and then in the third period, the script was flipped upside down for the Panthers in a 4-3 loss to the Blues at Enterprise Center.
The Blues scored four times, including the game-winner from Brayden Schenn with 3:55 remaining in regulation on a goal that had Panther players and coach Bob Boughner wondering why a penalty wasn’t called on Schenn for an apparent cross-check on defenseman Mike Matheson right before Schenn put a backhand rebound past Luongo.
“I thought it should have been a penalty on the play,” Boughner said. “I thought it was a cross-check. The guy that cross-checks [Schenn] is the guy that gets the puck and it’s in the back of our net.”
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“If you look at it, it probably could have been interference in front of the net,” Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said. “The guy [Schenn] cross-checks our guy in front of the net and has an open net to put it in. It’s just a tough one to swallow right now.”
The Panthers (11-12-2) held a 1-0 lead on a first-period goal by Evgenii Dadonov through two periods behind a strong PK that held the Blues (11-14-4) without a goal on three attempts and only three shots on goal. And even when things got chaotic when the Panthers allowed two goals in 11 seconds early in the third by Ivan Barbashev and one of two goals for the Blues’ David Perron, Florida showed plenty of fight by battling back from a 3-1 deficit on goals by MacKenzie Weegar, his first of the season, and Mike Hoffman’s team-leading 15th.
But the Panthers, whose lethal power play has been so good lately scoring in eight consecutive games (11 for 33) and in 18 of the past 19 (25 for-72), did not produce on two attempts, including one that had 1:15 left to start the third.
“We did a lot of good things on the power play,” Boughner said. “We hit the post, I think we hit one earlier in the game. We didn’t capitalize on some of the chances we had in the second period when we really had the push going. … We found a way to come back.”
Luongo made 29 saves in the game, but allowed four goals on 14 third-period shots. He was in search of his 477th NHL victory, which would have put him seven in back of Ed Belfour for third all time, but the veteran netminder said things got chaotic in the third period, and the Panthers sustained their third loss in a row and fourth in the past five.
“It was a tight game for the first two periods and then all of the sudden. play opened up in the third so it was another tough loss,” Luongo said. “Mistakes are going to happen and it’s my job to try and bail them out as much as I can and obviously I didn’t do that enough in the third period.”
The Panthers were in a good spot on the road through 40 minutes, but they lost for just the second time in regulation (7-2-3) when leading after two.
“A 1-0 lead going into the third period is a great position to be on the road,” Boughner said. “We just didn’t get it done.”