David Backes scored twice and defenseman Kris Russell netted his second goal in three games with St. Louis as the Blues continued to sizzle under Ken Hitchcock with a 4-1 victory over the visiting Florida Panthers on Thursday.
Chris Porter broke a 1-1 tie in the second period with his first goal of the season. Backes scored in the first period and added an empty-netter as the Blues improved to 4-0-1 under Hitchcock and won for the seventh time in nine home games.
Mike Santorelli scored in the first period for Florida, which had its four-game road winning streak snapped. Russell, who was acquired from Columbus on Friday, tipped in a beautiful feed from Vladimir Sobotka to finish off a 2-on-1 at 9:46 of the third period to give the Blues a 3-1 lead.
The Blues have not allowed a goal in the second or third period since Hitchcock replaced Davis Payne as coach on Nov. 6. Porter surprised Theodore between his pads with a wrist shot from the left faceoff dot off a turnover for an unassisted goal at 5:48.
Both first-period goals were also unassisted and came directly off turnovers. Backes made it 1-0 when he beat Theodore with a wrist shot over his glove shoulder at 6:04 before Santorelli send a wrist shot past Halak’s catcher at 13:07.
The Blues were without right wing Chris Stewart, who served the first of his three-game suspension for hitting Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall from behind into the boards Tuesday.