Led by the streaking Alexander Steen, the St. Louis Blues appear to be back to their winning ways.
The veteran forward looks to extend his career-high goal streak to six games while trying to help the visiting Blues to a third straight win Friday night against the slumping Florida Panthers.
Steen had eight goals in 40 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, but he’s scored seven of his NHL-leading 11 while St. Louis (7-1-2) has earned at least one point in five straight contests. He never scored more than 24 goals in any of his previous eight seasons.
Though Steen is reluctant to talk about his early surge, his teammates have no trouble throwing praise his way.
“Pretty impressive, isn’t he?” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “He works his tail off day in and day out. He deserves all of this success. We’ve just got to make sure he keeps going.”
Steen, who ranks among the league leaders with 16 points and has a goal in all but one game, scored the tiebreaker on a power play with 59.4 seconds left in a 3-2 win over Winnipeg on Tuesday.
“He’s been great all over the ice, not just scoring goals,” said teammate T.J. Oshie, who has a goal and five assists in the last five games. “On the forecheck, on the backcheck, he’s something.
“It’s just a lot of fun to play with a guy like that.”
Three of Steen’s last four goals have come on the power play, where St. Louis is 4 for 13 in the past three games. The Blues have won two in a row following a 1-1-2 stretch.
They’ve outscored Florida 13-2 to take three straight matchups, winning 7-0 at home Oct. 5. Jaroslav Halak faced only 19 shots, Jaden Schwartz had a goal with two assists and Steen converted a penalty shot.
“It was a man’s game and we didn’t rise to the occasion,” Florida coach Kevin Dineen said after that contest. “We got outplayed in every aspect of the game.”
The Panthers (3-7-2) failed to generate many quality scoring chances despite a season-high seven power-play opportunities in the last meeting. Florida ranks near the bottom of the league converting 4-of-41 chances with the man advantage, and it has gone 1 for 16 while losing six of seven.
For the second time in three games the Panthers erased a two-goal deficit only to lose in a shootout, the latest 4-3 to Tampa Bay on Sunday.
“Unfortunately, we end up on the wrong end of these (shootouts) right now, but there’s guys that are pushing hard and that’s what we have to keep doing,” said Dineen, whose team is 1-2-2 during a six-game home stretch.
Ex-Blues right wing Brad Boyes leads Florida with five goals, snapping a six-game drought Sunday. He’s been held without a point in two games against his former team since St. Louis traded him to Buffalo during the 2010-11 season.
Halak is 8-1-0 versus Florida and has a 0.75 goals-against average during a four-game winning streak against the Panthers.