It could be summed up in a line uttered by Ted Striker, the flawed hero of the movie Airplane!: The Panthers were simply “sluggish. Like a wet sponge.”
Despite Florida's lackluster play, the host Blues – as well as a bad call that cost St. Louis a goal – let the Panthers to stick around until late in the game. Florida didn't take advantage of the Missouri hospitality.
Kris Russell scored the back-breaking goal midway through the third as the Blues ended the Panthers run of road success with a 4-1 win at Scottrade Center.
“We look sloppy and slow,'' coach Kevin Dineen said, “when we're not engaged in the game. We had our opportunities, but didn't do enough to realistically win. We've come back before, settled down after bad stretches but didn't do that [Thursday]. In the third, they were very hungry. They smelled that we were trying an easier way to win. That doesn't work for us.''
The Panthers were trying to tie a franchise record with their fifth straight road win. Instead, the Panthers limp home for a four-game set that starts Saturday against Pittsburgh with one of its worst played games of the season fresh in their minds.
The Blues took a 1-0 lead at 6:04 of the first when David Backes stole a Brian Campbell pass intended for Tim Kennedy and rifled a shot past goalie Jose Theodore.
Florida was able to counter later in the period on a similar theft by Mike Santorelli as he picked off a pass from Jason Arnott and whipped a shot from 10 feet out to beat Halak.
The Panthers had an extended power play chance at the start of the second, but as has been the case lately, weren't able to do anything with it. The Blues controlled play despite being down a skater and kept the Panthers from taking the lead.
Not long after the power play ended – Scott Nichol had been assessed five minutes for spearing and was kicked out of the game – Chris Porter got in front of a Mike Weaver pass that neither Keaton Ellerby nor Marco Sturm could corral and put a shot past Theodore.
The Panthers should have trailed 3-1 when T.J. Oshie scored in front of the net, but the goal was waved off for goalie interference. No penalty was called, nor should there have been. Oshie and Jason Garrison got tangled up down low and no one touched Theodore.
“It was one of those nights when you feel like you are on your heels the whole night,'' Ed Jovanovski said. “We just couldn't get 'er going. We got a couple breaks along the way, the disallowed goal and it's 2-1 on the road. That's a pretty good position. But we really didn't have it.''
Florida had another nice power play chance with a 4-on-3 opportunity but failed to score late in the second. The Panthers power play, which is much improved over last year's franchise-worst 35 goals, hasn't scored in their past 14 chances.
St. Louis outshot the Panthers 25-15 in the final 40 minutes, with Russell driving in on Theodore and scoring off a nice pass from Vladimir Sobotka with 10:14 left in the third. Backes ended it with 1:50 left when he scored into an empty net.
The Panthers got winger Jack Skille back on Thursday but were forced to play seven defensemen against the Blues as center Marcel Goc was held back. Goc, who said he was feeling better, suffered an undisclosed upper body injury after being hit Tuesday in Dallas.
Goc could be back for the Panthers on Saturday; Matt Bradley says he hopes to be back from his undisclosed injury next week. Skille suffered a minor injury Sunday against the Flyers and missed just one game.
-- Former Panthers winger Rostislav Olesz cleared waivers on Thursday afternoon and was sent to the minors by the Blackhawks. Florida traded Olesz to Chicago in June for defenseman Brian Campbell.
Even though Campbell makes much more than Olesz, Florida didn't want to pay the $11.65 million owed to him over the course of the next three seasons.
In six games with the Blackhawks, Olesz had no goals nor assists and was a minus-1. Campbell, meanwhile, has been one of the Panthers scoring leaders and came into Thursday's game second in the NHL with 16 assists. Olesz has been assigned to Chicago's AHL affiliate in Rockford, Ill.
-- The Panthers announced the spelling of winger Evgeny Dadonov's first name is now 'Evgenii' to reflect a change on his passport.
When asked how he wanted it spelled, Dadonov shrugged and said to go with what's on the passport.