By Nick Jacquin, Sports Writer
It has been glaringly obvious that the St. Louis Blues have been missing an offensive spark for much of the season. The return of Jaden Schwartz however, could prove to be the difference maker. Schwartz, having been out the past 49 games with a broken ankle, returned on Friday night vs. the Florida Panthers, scoring one goal and adding an assist in the 5-3 Blues victory.
The game featured two of the NHL’s best defenses with both teams ranking in the top 5 in fewest goals allowed per game, but it did not look like it on Friday night. The first goal of the game was scored by Florida’s Derek MacKenzie just five minutes into the opening period.
The momentum quickly turned in the Blues favor as they were able to string together 3 goals in just over seven minutes. Blues captain, David Backes, scored his 13th goal of the season beating Panthers goalie, Roberto Luongo stick side to tie the game up at 1. Shortly thereafter, Schwartz was able to rebound a Colton Parayko shot past Luongo for his first goal of the season, giving the Blues the 2-1 lead over the top team in the Atlantic Division.
Blues rookie, Robbie Fabbri made it 3-1 when he scored on the power play with just 19 seconds left in the period. It was Fabbri’s 12th goal of the season as he continues to turn himself into a young playmaker for the Blues.
The game remained 3-1 until Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 27th goal of the season eight minutes into the second. However, the Panthers responded quickly when defenseman, Aaron Ekblad, put one past Blues goalie, Brian Elliott. It was the 11th goal of the season for Ekblad, who continues to show his star potential on a very good Panthers team. Just over the halfway point of the third period, it appeared the Panthers might get back into the game. Jonathan Huberdeau tipped a pass through the crease, making it 4-3. However, it was as close as they were going to get.
Blues winger Alexander Steen put one top shelf at 12:17 to help St. Louis regain the two-goal margin. The Blues went on hold on to the lead, beating the Panthers by the score of 5-3. With the win, St. Louis extended their winning streak in Florida, where they haven’t lost since 2011.
However, the game was not the only highlight the team encountered this past weekend. It was the Blues second annual dads’ trip, where the fathers of 19 players traveled with the team and enjoyed seeing what their sons encounter on a daily basis. The dads sat in on team meetings and watched the pregame skate. They were also able to interact with the other fathers while watching the game from the box seats. It is a great event that the Blues put on and the team was able to pick up a big win, improving their record to 31-17-9 on the season.
The Blues will return to St. Louis following the two game road trip, where they will take on the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.