Over the years, the Panthers have struggled against Martin Brodeur and the St. Louis Blues.
Until Monday, Florida never had to face both at the same time.
The Panthers’ blues against both continue.
Despite rallying from a two-goal deficit, the Panthers gave up a late goal and watched St. Louis score into an empty net for a 4-2 victory to celebrate Brodeur’s home debut in St. Louis.
Brodeur, the NHL’s all-time leader in wins and shutouts, came into the night with 48 victories over the Panthers, including a pair of postseason series wins during his 21 seasons with the Devils.
On Monday, his new team — Brodeur signed an incentive-laden contract that pays him $20,000 a win last week — gave him a 2-0 lead off a pair of odd goals.
Yet the Panthers — outscored 11-0 in a pair of losses to the Blues last season — battled back and got a pair of goals in the final six minutes of the second and third periods by two of their top young players to tie the score.
Florida had been shutout at the hands of St. Louis goalies for 202 minutes 14 seconds before Nick Bjugstad’s wrister beat Brodeur with 4:39 left in the second period.
In the third, Aaron Ekblad continued his offensive tear by taking a nice pass from Jussi Jokinen and burying it with 5:06 remaining in the game.
Just when it appeared this one was headed to to overtime, Chris Porter deflected a long shot from Barret Jackman, and the puck skipped past Roberto Luongo with just under two minutes left.
All three goals Luongo gave up were deflected — St. Louis’ fourth goal came with the goalie on the bench — including the first two by his own teammates.
The Blues gave Brodeur a 2-0 lead off a pair of strange goals.
Max Lapierre’s odd-angled shot hit the skate of Florida’s Vincent Trocheck in front of the net and went in for a 1-0 lead.
With 2:26 left in the first, Ian Cole rifled off a 45-foot slap shot that clipped the stick of Jonathan Huberdeau and went past Luongo.
In the second, Bjugstad’s team-high 12th goal of the season made it 2-1 with a wrist shot over Brodeur’s shoulder.
Late in the third, Jokinen got Brodeur’s attention as his long pass to a pinching Ekblad caught the future Hall of Famer out of position.
As Ekblad rared up to shoot, Brodeur went down and Ekblad picked up his third goal and seventh point in his past five games.
Ekblad received the postgame West Point dress gray jacket after recording his first three-point night in Saturday’s 3-2 win over Buffalo.
On Monday, the 18-year-old was honored as one of the NHL’s “Three Stars of the Week” after he scored six points (two goals) in four games.
The other honorees were Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, who scored against the Panthers last Tuesday, and Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who beat the Panthers twice last week.
“I just wished we would have won more games,” Ekblad said. “It is nice; I can’t say I’m not happy about it.”
▪ Dave Bolland was in the Panthers’ lineup for the first time since Oct.17 on Monday. Bolland pulled a groin muscle in Buffalo and missed the following 21 games.
“It has been a while, so it’s great to be able to get back out there, get in the lineup,” said Bolland, who signed a five-year, $27.5-million deal with Florida on July1.
The Panthers sat Shawn Thornton to make room for Bolland. Florida also placed Aleksander Barkov (hand) on the injured list retroactive to Dec.1.
▪ Brodeur told reporters Monday that while he was out of work he would spend weekends at his home in Boynton Beach after spending weekdays working out in New Jersey.
While in Palm Beach County, Brodeur said he caught a few Panthers games on TV and liked what he saw.
“[Florida has] a lot of talent, a lot of young guys through the draft the last couple of years, a lot of bodies, a lot of skill,” he said. “It’s just a matter of putting everything together. It seems like it’s coming along pretty good.”
As far as driving south to Sunrise to see a game, Brodeur smiled.
“No,” he said, “I’m not that big of a fan.”
▪ Radio voice Randy Moller missed his third consecutive game because of an illness. After being replaced by Craig Minervini and Jiggs McDonald in the first two games, Fox Florida’s Frank Forte filled in Monday.