Pan­thers de­liver St. Louis its first loss of the sea­son.

Pan­thers take to up­beat tempo with easy win

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Craig Davis Staff writer

Beat­ing the Blues

SUN­RISE — Three games are in­suf­fi­cient to get a de­fin­i­tive read on the di­rec­tion this Pan­thers sea­son will take.

The early tests have been for­mi­da­ble against two of the top teams in the NHL, and the re­sults are en­cour­ag­ing as a young club is ex­celling in new coach Bob Bough­ner’s fast­paced sys­tem.

Rested af­ter a four-day lay­off, the Pan­thers used a three­goal out­burst in the sec­ond pe­riod to cool off the league’s hottest team Thurs­day in a 5-2 vic­tory against the St. Louis Blues at the BB&T Cen­ter.

The Pan­thers’ 13 goals are the most af­ter three games in their his­tory (pre­vi­ously, 11 in 2015-16).

The Blues, who were at­tempt­ing to be­gin a sea­son 5-0 for the first time, are third in the lat­est team power rank­ings by NHL.com. The Tampa Bay Light­ning, with whom the Pan­thers split the first two games, are fourth. The Pan­thers were not listed in the top 16.

“I like this team that we have,” said re­tired gen­eral Ray­mond Odierno, named Pan­thers chair­man ear­lier in the day. “I don’t know how well we’re go­ing to do, but I like it.

Odierno, who com­manded the U.S. Army at ev­ery level dur­ing a 39-year ca­reer, added, “We’re young. We have eight play­ers 23 or younger. I like that we have re­ally young, skilled play­ers that are go­ing to take us for­ward. I think we can add to that.”

The kids held their own in this one as rookie de­fense­man Ian McCoshen, 22, scored his first NHL goal and Jared McCann, 21, recorded his sec­ond of the sea­son dur­ing the sec­ond-pe­riod flurry.

“It’s so spe­cial. It’s a dream come true,” McCoshen said between pe­ri­ods.

Flor­ida gained some sep­a­ra­tion 3:16 into the third when yet an­other young Pan­ther, Aaron Ek­blad, made it 4-1 with his first goal of the sea­son on a sweet feed from Jonathan Hu­berdeau. Though be­gin­ning his fourth sea­son, Ek­blad is only 21.

Vet­eran goalie Roberto Luongo, the gray­beard of the team at 38, was out­stand­ing in his first start at home since Feb. 28 with 37 saves. He made a key save just be­fore Ek­blad’s goal on a rush by Jaden Schwartz, who got be­hind the de­fense in a bid to cut the deficit to one.

The Pan­thers turned it into a run­away on Nick Bjugstad’s long rush trig­gered by McCann’s take­away and out­let pass in the Flor­ida zone with 6 min­utes re­main­ing.

The Blues were play­ing their third game on the road in four nights, while the Pan­thers had been off since Satur­day’s win against Tampa Bay.

For the third time in the young sea­son, the Pan­thers gave up the first goal. This one didn’t come un­til early in the sec­ond pe­riod on a power play when Paul Stastny took a pass at the goal line to the right of the Flor­ida net and made a quick move to score on a wrap-around past Luongo.

The Pan­thers im­me­di­ately an­swered on the next shift when McCoshen took a pass from Con­nor Brick­ley and fired a long wrist shot through traf­fic.

The Blues had won each of their pre­vi­ous 14 games, dat­ing to last sea­son, when they scored a power-play goal. They were poised for an­other one with Alex Petro­vic in the box.

But Vin­cent Trocheck turned it into the first Pan­thers lead of the night with their first short-handed goal of the sea­son. Trocheck seized a turnover in the neu­tral zone and beat Jake Allen on the break­away to the glove side.

The Pan­thers then con­verted on a pretty pow­er­play goal of their own when Radim Vr­bata sent the puck to­ward the goal from the left point and Jared McCann, camped in the slot, tipped it past Allen for his sec­ond goal of the sea­son and a 3-1 Pan­thers lead.

They took that ad­van­tage into the fi­nal frame af­ter killing off two penal­ties late in the pe­riod, in­clud­ing a 5-on-3 St. Louis ad­van­tage for 1:03. Luongo had sev­eral key saves in the se­quence.

JIM RASSOL/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Rookie Pan­thers de­fense­man Ian McCoshen cel­e­brates his first goal dur­ing Flor­ida’s 5-2 vic­tory Thurs­day against the pre­vi­ously un­beaten St. Louis Blues.

JIM RASSOL/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Goalie Roberto Luongo, who was solid in goal in his first start at home in a while, keeps his eye on the puck on this first pe­riod play Thurs­day night.

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