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MacKenzie's two goals help Panthers defeat Blues

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Derek MacKenzie scored two goals in a game for the second time in his NHL career, and the Florida Panthers defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-1 at Scottrade Center on Tuesday.

MacKenzie's first goal came 13 seconds after Florida's Brandon Pirri opened the scoring at 12:18 of the second period. He scored again in the third period for his first two-goal game since March 12, 2011, with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"I certainly didn't expect coming into this game for that to happen," said MacKenzie, who has played 424 games in the League. "It's a bonus, and to come up with a win against a team like this, I'm happy for the guys."

Roberto Luongo made 29 saves, including 17 in the third period, for his 16th career win against St. Louis.

The Florida goalie was happy for MacKenzie, who was denied by St. Louis goalie Jake Allen on a breakaway earlier in the second period.

"It was huge," Luongo said of MacKenzie's performance. "Guys were making fun of him a little bit after his breakaway that he shot right in [Allen's] chest, but after that he turned it up to beast mode and buried a couple there."

The Panthers (11-9-4), who played without center Nick Bjugstad because of an upper-body injury, have won three in a row and the first two of a five-game trip; they defeated the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in overtime on Sunday.

"It was a great win for us," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "We battled hard against a real good hockey team over there. We got some breaks and MacKenzie came up big for us tonight, and obviously Luongo played really good in the net. We had a good team effort again tonight."

David Backes scored for the Blues (15-7-3), who lost in regulation for the first time in six games. Allen made 12 saves before Brian Elliott replaced him for the third period; Elliott made eight saves.

The Blues, who play at the New York Islanders on Friday, had 10 giveaways.

"All over the ice, it seemed real sloppy; a lot of turnovers, myself included," Blues forward Steve Ott said. "You chase the game when you turn over the pucks as much as we were doing tonight. It just seemed like we couldn't get anything going, like we were chasing throughout the night too much. ... It's one of those games you have to throw out the window and regroup quickly and be ready to hit the road."

Pirri scored his fifth goal on a breakaway after Vladimir Tarasenko's offensive-zone pass was picked off. Pirri deked to his backhand and slid the puck through Allen's pads.

MacKenzie then took advantage in the slot after Ott lost control of a spinning puck, beating Allen with a slap shot at 12:31 of the second period for a 2-0 Panthers lead.

Backes pulled the Blues within one 21 seconds after MacKenzie's first goal when his spin shot from the slot caromed off the skate of Panthers defenseman Dylan Olsen and past Luongo.

But another St. Louis turnover, this one by Kevin Shattenkirk in the neutral zone, led to MacKenzie's second goal of the night and third of the season. MacKenzie skated the puck into the Blues zone and his long-range wrist shot beat Allen with 3:19 left in the second to make it 3-1.

"All their offense started from us turning the puck over either in the neutral zone or in the offensive zone," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's where all their fast breaks started. … Everything's work-based, and when you play with a work base, you play in straight lines, you don't play cute, you get on the grind, you wear teams down. That's how we're built; we didn't want to play that way today. We didn't give Florida near the respect they deserve. We didn't want to play that way today. We wanted to play a slow east-west game and we couldn't. Until we switched all the lines up in the third period, we never really started to dig in the way we needed to play. It's disappointing."

The Panthers and Blues combined for seven shots (4-3 in favor of Florida) in the first period. St. Louis got its first shot on goal with 4:23 remaining.

The slow start seemed to keep each team bogged down for the start of the second until the Panthers took advantage of the Blues' miscues.

"I thought we played a good game and took advantage of some mistakes that they made," Gallant said.

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