By Lou Korac
For 40 minutes, it didn’t look like much was going to change for the Blues.
Down a goal to the Florida Panthers, the Blues have been a team challenged this season overcoming deficits after the second, but they had bite to their game for a change and, and least for one night, found a way.
David Perron scored twice, Ivan Barbashev scored, and Brayden Schenn scored with 3:55 remaining as the Blues overcame a one-goal deficit and scored four third-period goals of a 4-3 win over the Panthers Tuesday before 16,255 at Enterprise Center.
In a game that featured one of the most bizarre goals that went into the net that didn’t count, the Blues (11-14-4) used the final 20 minutes to ramp things up, find a way to beat longtime netminder Roberto Luongo four times on 14 shots and doing do with a persistent forecheck, and a greasy goal off a rebound in front that upset the Panthers (11-12-6), who had a legitimate claim that Schenn cross-checked Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson before scoring.
Nonetheless, it was a much-needed win for a group that had used the word “fragile” on multiple occasions in recent days and a day after a fight broke out at practice.
“There was more consistency, that’s for sure,” Perron said. “Even (when) we’re down 1-0 after two, I thought we were playing pretty good. We were carrying the play for the most part. You have to hope and keep doing the same thing that it was going to come.”
It came, and for a team offensively-challenged to score (five goals the past four games), the outburst was not only appreciated but more importantly, needed.
“Yeah, it’s a very good win for sure,” interim coach Craig Berube said. “I thought our game was solid all the way through. We did a good job.”
Down 1-0, it started with a good penalty kill, one in which carried over from the second for 1:16, but the Blues, who have killed 18 straight power plays dating to Dec. 1 against Arizona, got the job done even after a close cal when Mike Hoffman’s shot from the top of the right circle hit the far post.
The Blues took the puck down and Barbashev scored at 1:28 to tie the game 1-1 on a slick feed from behind the net from Robert Thomas, who was in the box serving a holding penalty.
“Everyone’s buying in there, they’re on the same page, and that’s important,” Schenn said. “Top players on other teams don’t like playing against tough PK’s and we’re doing a good job right now.
“… ‘Barby’ scoring that goal gives us a ton of momentum and gave us some confidence that we can actually score some goals and it’s nice to get four there in the third.”
Perron made it 2-1 11 seconds later off a turnover when Jaden Schwartz, playing for the first time in 12 games after a broken hand, stole Matheson’s clearing attempt and fed Perron in the slot for a shot high short side on Luongo.
Perron’s second of the game, his third multi-goal game of the season, came at 11:12 to make it 3-1 on a shot that caromed off Florida’s Frank Vatrano.
This is where things got challenging, and Florida got it back to level ground when they scored twice in 1:28 to tie the game.
But unlike past games when things look bleak and start to fall off the cliff fast, the Blues didn’t panic.
“It’s always important not to panic. Always,” said Perron, who returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch Sunday. “And we’ve done that too much this year.”
Not this time. Not after MacKenzie Weegar made it 3-2 at 11:46 and Hoffman tied it at 13:14.
There was a sense of calmness on the bench, and players and coaches alike felt it, but Berube called a time out just in case to settle the players down even though he felt the calmness.
“Yes I did actually,” Berube said. “I thought guys were good. We talked a little bit there, calmed it down, went out and played and I thought we played really well after that.”
The game-winner came off forecheck behind the net where Perron got the puck to the point, and Vince Dunn’s shot got through before Schenn collected the rebound and tucked a backhand in.
“I’ve got to do more of that, I’ve got to go to the net more, that’s where the puck’s always ending up,” Schenn said. “Whether it’s a tip or a rebound or a bounce like that. You go to the net good things are going to happen and I have to do a better job of getting there.
“… We gave a few up but the guys stuck with it. Obviously a huge job by the PK there to kill that one off and then the same guys not only killed the penalty but go score.”
The bizarre play of the game? Well, in the first period, the Blues — at least the players, fans and those covering the game — felt they scored when Robert Bortuzzo approached the offensive zone blue line and looked to slap the puck around the boards to try and gain entry that way. But Bortuzzo inadvertantly struck referee Tim Peel, caromed towards the goal, off Luongo’s skate and into the near side at 5:17.
Peel was down since the puck struck him hard in the midsection area and he momentarily left the game but returned, but his partner, Furman South, announced there was no goal and under Rule 75.3 (iii), apparent goals shall be disallowed “when the puck has deflected directly into the net off an official.”
“I went for a dump-in and I double-clutched it, so I changed my angle,” Bortuzzo said. “I caught ‘Peelzie’ and I felt bad to be honest, shocked when it went in. I didn’t know the rule obviously, so I put my hands in the air. I don’t think a lot of people knew the rule.”
“Timmy scored a goal. That’s crazy,” Schenn joked. “Especially the position he was in. I was glad to see him back out there and he’s all good.”
Berube, who said he’d seen a similar occurrence, knew immediately it would be waved off.
“I knew it wasn’t a goal,” he said. “I think I have seen that before where it hit the referee and went in and didn’t count, so I knew in the back of my mind that it might not be a goal.
“… It’s not a rule that most people know. To be honest with you, I can’t remember where I’ve seen it, but I know I have seen it.”
Jake Allen, who made 22 saves, helped preserve the win in the second when the Panthers peppered him with 13 shots.
Photo courtesy of Scott Rovak/St. Louis Blues