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Blues fall to Florida 2-1 in quick stop at home

Blues fall to Florida 2-1 in quick stop at home

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Panthers Blues Hockey

The Blues' Robert Thomas (right) looks to pass as Florida's Josh Brown  defends in the second period of a game on Monday, March 9, 2020, in St. Louis. (Jeff Roberson, Associated Press)

For the third time in four games, the Blues held an opponent to two goals or less, but this time, they couldn't turn it into a win as their offense came up short.

Showing the effects of three games in four nights and unplanned set of back-to-backs, the Blues were a step slow and out of kilter all night. An early third period goal for Florida gave them a 2-1 win over the Blues, who could fall out of first place in the Central Division with a win by Colorado tonight in Los Angeles. The Blues have been the No. 1 team in the Western Conference since Dec. 14.

"These are games we can win," goalie Jordan Binnington said. "We're better than that."

"We had a lot of opportunities to score," coach Craig Berube said. "They did a good job with their sticks, blocking shots, they blocked 23 shots. Back-to-back games, I didn't think we had a ton of jump."

After having 34 hits in the Chicago game, the Blues were credited with just six on Monday. Sammy Blais had eight in the Chicago game, none against Florida. 

The Blues will be back on a plane on Tuesday to fly to Anaheim for the game that was postponed when Jay Bouwmeester had his heart episode. Then they'll be back in St. Louis for a game on Friday.

Brett Connolly put Florida ahead with 15:37 to go in the third. Aleski Saarela took the puck behind the net and the pursuing Vince Dunn crashed into the back of the net. That allowed Saarela to come out from behind the net with no one near him, and he was able to thread a pass to the other side of the crease to Connolly for the goal. 

"We gave them a little too much time and space," defenseman Colton Parayko said. 

"I thought we turned the puck over a little bit too much in the neutral zone," forward Robert Thomas said. "When we got it and got on our forecheck, we created a lot of chances and it's just a matter of doing that more consistently."

Parayko got the Blues on the board with his 10th goal of the season, but the Blues couldn't kill a penalty and finished the second period tied 1-1.

Parayko's shot, off a pass through traffic by Robert Thomas and helped by a screen from Alexander Steen, put the Blues up 1-0 with 8:40 to go in the second period. It was the third straight goal scored by a Blues defenseman and the fifth of the Blues' past eight goals.

The goal matched Parayko's career high, set last season, and it also gave the Blues 11 players with 10 or more goals.

With 5:14 to go in the second, Marco Scandella was called for slashing and the Panthers turned it into a goal. After the Panthers' Keith Yandle was able to keep the puck in at the blueline and Mike Hoffman wound up for a slapshot that went high. The Panthers got the puck back, worked it back to Hoffman at the same place, and this time, his shot beat Jordan Binnington, who was screened on the play by Justin Faulk.

A Blues power play nearly turned into a debacle late in the first period and the Blues survived only because of Binnington. 

The Blues turned the puck over a couple times in their own end to start the power play and give the Panthers some good scoring chances. At the end of the penalty, MacKenzie Weegar, who was in the box for tripping, got out and got the puck on a breakaway. He faked a shot to his right, then cut back to his left hoping to go in behind Binnington, but Binnington extended his right leg and pinned the puck under his skate.

Other than that, it was a largely uneventful first period. Alexander Steen had the best chance for the Blues, with his backhand shot of a loose puck in front of the net was stopped just ahead of the goal line by Florida goalie Chris Driedger.

Justin Faulk is back in the lineup after missing two games with an upper-body injury.

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