Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers end skid against Blues with 3-1 victory

Florida Panthers' Derek MacKenzie, center, celebrates his goal against the St. Louis Blues with teammates Quinton Howden (42) and Shawn Thornton (22) during the second period Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in St. Louis. The Panthers won 3-1.
Florida Panthers' Derek MacKenzie, center, celebrates his goal against the St. Louis Blues with teammates Quinton Howden (42) and Shawn Thornton (22) during the second period Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, in St. Louis. The Panthers won 3-1. AP

Early in the second period Tuesday, Derek MacKenzie took a clean pass from Reilly Smith, charged in on goalie Jake Allen and watched his wrist shot get stopped.

MacKenzie got Allen back later in the period, picking off a pair of loose pucks and putting both in the back of the net to lift the Panthers to a 3-1 victory over the Blues.

The Panthers won their first game at Scottrade Center since 2009, snapped a six-game slide against the Blues and now head to Nashville riding their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Florida is 2-0 on this five-game trip that continues Thursday against the Predators.

After a true defensive struggle in the opening period — St. Louis didn’t get its first shot on goal until there was 4:23 remaining — things got interesting in the second.

The two teams combined for three goals all within a span of 34 seconds.

Brandon Pirri put the Panthers on the board 12:18 into the second when Willie Mitchell picked off a Vladimir Tarasenko pass and deep in the Blues’ zone and tapped the puck to Sasha Barkov.

Barkov noticed Pirri flying through the neutral zone and zipped a perfect pass onto his stick in stride. Pirri walked in on Allen, swept the puck past him and made it 1-0.

On the ensuing possession, MacKenzie picked off the puck from Steve Ott and quickly fired a wrist shot that beat Allen a mere 13 seconds after Pirri’s goal.

The Panthers’ two-goal lead didn’t last long after David Backes scored at the 12:52 mark — 21 seconds after MacKenzie’s first goal of the night.

MacKenzie gave the Panthers the two-goal cushion back later in the period, intercepting another loose puck at center ice and rushing in on Allen. This time his 40-foot wrist shot found the back of the net.

It was the first two-game game for MacKenzie since signing with the Panthers in 2014 and gives him three goals this season.

Allen stayed in the game for a time with Blues’ coach Ken Hitchcock pulling him during the second intermission and going with Brian Elliott in the third.

BJUGSTAD OUT

The Panthers were without one of their top forwards Tuesday as Nick Bjugstad was sent back to South Florida to be evaluated by team doctors.

The team is only saying that Bjugstad, 23, suffered some sort of upper body injury during Monday’s practice in St. Louis.

Bjugstad missed the final 10 games of last season after needing back surgery.

With Bjugstad out, Dave Bolland — scratched for the past three games — centered Florida’s third line.

▪ Scottie Upshall didn’t want to leave the Panthers last summer after his four-year contract expired.

Florida, however, had other plans as general manager Dale Tallon let some of the team’s young prospects have a shot at roster spots.

Upshall, one of the few remaining 2011 free agent signees still with the team at the end of last season, ended up getting a free agent tryout with the Blues and signed with them at the end of camp.

“It was a fun four years of my life, playing in Florida,” said Upshall, who was in the starting lineup Tuesday.

“We had some good times together. ... I was disappointed, I liked Florida there. I thought our team was making strides once [Jaromir] Jagr came but it didn’t work out. I didn’t really talk to anyone when I left, just read some newspaper clips and said ‘I guess I’m not coming back’.’’

With Upshall and Tomas Kopecky not offered new contracts with the Panthers, only defenseman Brian Campbell remains with Florida from Tallon’s 2011 remake of the roster that led to the Southeast Division title later that season.

“I can’t say I’m surprised although I think we did a good job of changing things a bit,” Upshall said.

▪ The Panthers could have defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (knee) back as early as Thursday.

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