SUNRISE, Fla. (AP)—The Florida Panthers needed about 10 minutes to shake off the rust of a few days off.
After being outshot 9-1 over the first half of the opening period, the Panthers took a 2-0 lead on goals by Olli Jokinen and Joe Nieuwendyk on their way to a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.
“We wanted to set the tone and go after those guys, but it was our first game in three or four days, maybe that was the case,” Jokinen said. “We were able to get a two-goal lead.”
Nathan Horton also scored for the Panthers, who are 8-1-1 in their last 10 at home.
Rookie Kevin Dallman scored his first NHL goal for the Blues. St. Louis, which has the worst record in the league, has lost four straight and scored a total of two goals in its last three games.
“At least we got chances,” said Blues wing Scott Young. “When you’re not getting chances, that’s really bad. We showed signs of life tonight.”
“We had some scoring chances, but it’s tough to get it past Luongo,” said Blues coach Mike Kitchen. “He looks very calm in the net and you look at their coaches, they look very calm over there.”
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead with 5:01 left when Jokinen beat Sanford with a turnaround wrist shot from the faceoff circle.
Nieuwendyk made it 2-0 about two minutes later when he tipped in Jozef Stumpel’s perfect pass across the crease.
“We got a couple goals that kind of cushioned us,” said Nieuwendyk. “It’s good to maintain a two-goal lead. A great goal by Olli to start things off and Stumpel made a great pass on my goal.”
Dallman closed the gap to 2-1 with a power-play goal with 9:14 remaining in the second when he skated in from the side of the net and banged in a loose puck.
“I just dove at it,” Dallman said. “It was like my last chance to get a stick on it. I was real excited, but I’d rather take the win than a goal.”
Horton restored Florida’s lead to two goals with a wrist shot from the slot in the second, snapping a personal 10-game scoreless streak.
“I was happy to get a goal, it was a nice pass by both my linemates,” Horton said. “It decided to hit the net, I guess. I tried to get it away as quick as I can and it went in there.”
Dallas Drake had a breakaway for St. Louis with under four minutes left in the third but Luongo stopped his wrist shot.
“In the first 10 minutes, we came out a little flat but we picked it up and took control,” Luongo said. “We don t have to put on a show every night. We got the two points and everyone’s happy.”
Hall of Fame broadcaster Jiggs McDonald, who retired after the 2003-04 season, returned to the booth to fill in for Panthers TV play-by-play man Dave Strader, who will call NHL games and the Olympics for NBC. … Panthers LW Rastislav Olesz left the game late in the second period with a shoulder injury and did not return. … St. Louis dropped to 0-20-2 when trailing after two periods. … The Panthers improved to 4-0 against teams from the Central Division.