None of us saw this coming, and none of us would have ever thought that the Panthers would become ne of the hottest teams in the NHL this season.
This make-or-break, five-game road trip is already one of the best in franchise history, as the Panthers have swept through Nashville, San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles with a season-best four game winning streak, including Saturday night’s 3-2 victory over the Kings.
“This is a group that fought the confidence bug a little when we were going through the rough times,” Florida interim coach Tom Rowe, who took over for Gerard Gallant in late November, told reporters. “Now they’re taking advantage, feeling good and playing some good hockey.”
The Panthers had lost in their past seven trips to Staples Center, dating back to a 5-2 victory on Nov. 27, 2002. It’s the first time in franchise history the Panthers have won all three games in California in a single season, and they have a chance to record the franchise’s first 5-0 road trip with a victory over the St. Louis Blues (31-23-5) on Monday night.
The game didn’t start off well for the Cats. A slow start led to a few scrambles in front of the net. Thankfully, James Reimer was there to stop each puck and keep us tied at zero. With about ten minutes left in the first, Jonathan Marchessault tucked in a snap shot right under Jake Allen’s arm, to give us a 1-0 lead. The first period concluded with a 1-0 score line, in favor for the Panthers.
"Terrible finish," Allen said. "We had 30 seconds left to salvage a point in a game that we played not good. Those are huge points right now. Could have ended up with two points, and it slipped away."
The biggest reason for that was the Blues' inability to get the puck out of their zone in the closing seconds.
"There were opportunities to jump on loose pucks, there were opportunities to kill the play, and that didn't happen," St. Louis coach Mike Yeo said.
The loss came in the final game for the Blues before the league-mandated break in their schedule, with their next game not coming until Sunday night.
"We should have a bad taste in our mouth for a couple days," Yeo said. "We've got this break now, and what I hope happens is we take some time to think about our situation as far as finishing off the season and the situation that we're in."
Allen took the loss hard, as did his teammates.
Also, The Blues activated C Paul Stastny off injured reserve before the game, and he had an even rating in 18:41 of ice time. He missed the previous four games because of a lower-body injury. ... Blues LW Alexander Steen played in his 800th career game. ... Eight players on the Blues' roster were not born when Panthers RW Jaromir Jagr played his first game in the NHL on Oct. 5, 1990. Jagr, at 45, is even two years older than Blues coach Mike Yeo. ... The Panthers return home to host the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night. The Blues' next game will be Sunday night against the Blackhawks in Chicago.
After sweeping the western conference road trip for the first time this year, the Panthers are back at it on Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers. It will be the start of a four game home stand. The Cats are currently third in the atlantic, seeking a push for the playoffs.