Hofer and Buchnevich lead Blues past sliding Panthers
St. Louis has won three of its last four games under interim coach Drew Bannister, matching the best stretch of the season for the Blues. The loss during that span was 6-1 at Tampa Bay on Tuesday, and Bannister was pleased with the bounce-back.
“To be honest with you, that is the response I expected,” he said. “It’s a character team in there.”
The Blues have won four straight against Florida and are 6-1-1 versus the Panthers in their last eight meetings.
“It’s a big road trip,” Hofer said. "After a performance like last game, this was a good response by our group.”
The loss was the fourth in Florida's last five games, the team's worst such stretch of the season. The defending Eastern Conference champions have been held to one goal or less in all four of those losses.
Florida had three shots hit goalposts on Thursday.
“Pucks aren't going in for us right now,” said coach Paul Maurice, who was far more upset with mistakes than missed shots. “That doesn't matter. It doesn't because every team goes through a stretch where they're not scoring. ... We're going to look at it, we're going to talk about it, the language won't all be clean because that's not the way we play. And they know that. This is almost an inevitable turn your team takes at one point.”
The recent slump means the Panthers won't be taking much momentum into one of their more notable games of the regular season. They host Vegas on Saturday in their first meeting since the Golden Knights beat the Panthers in last season's Stanley Cup Final.
“Important game, obviously," defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. “Considering our last five, it's an important game. And considering what happened last year, it's an important game.”
Kyrou opened the scoring 4:50 into the second period and Buchnevich — shortly after getting a goal taken off the board because the play was ruled offside — made it 2-0 at 7:46.
Luostarinen caught Hofer off-guard with a clearing attempt that bounced off the glass and into an empty net — Hofer was waiting for a bounce that never came. Toropchenko restored the two-goal lead for St. Louis with 3:17 to go in the second period with a deflection of Marco Scandella's shot, and Buchnevich added an empty-netter with 3:09 to play.
The Panthers have another milestone of sorts awaiting Friday. They will hold their first practice at the War Memorial in Fort Lauderdale, about 2 1/2 years after the team broke ground on what was budgeted to be a $65 million refurbishment of a facility originally built in the 1950s.
Blues: Host the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night.
Panthers: Host the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday afternoon.
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