In somewhat of a departure from their usual modus operandii, the Florida Panthers played a strong first period, but slowly sagged the rest the way, losing to the Colorado Avalanche by a 4-2 count. The Cats trouble finishing early allowed the Avs to get to the dressing room tied at one after one despite getting out-shot by a 12-7 margin. The visitors eventually won the game with a power-play goal midway through the third period.
After a big stop on Jussi Jokinen by goaltender Semyon Varlamov to start the game, Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie took advantage of an ugly defensive breakdown and went rocky mountain high on Roberto Luongo to give the Avalanche a 1-0 lead at the 2:11.
The Panthers kept applying pressure, leading to back-to-back tripping penalties on the Avs. Rookie Aaron Ekblad took advantage of the situation, beating Varlamov for his sixth goal after taking a pass from Brian Campbell. Nick Bjugstad added his team-leading 26th point of the season with the secondary helper.
The teams played a coma-inducing twelve or so minutes in the second period before things finally heated up again.
Colorado regained the lead when Gabriel Landeskog scored at 13:02 from Ryan O'Reilly. Landeskog overpowered Dmitry Kulikov behind the net and came out in front and slipped the puck between Luongo's legs.
Florida punched back 23 seconds later with Aleksander Barkov bagging his fourth of the season after taking a sweet feed from Brad Boyes and redirecting it home. Jonathan Huberdeau also drew an assist by chipping the puck into the zone to spring Boyes, giving the third-year man seven points in the last five games.
Chances were traded over the remainder of the period, but Luongo and Varlamov were up to the task and able to keep the score knotted at two.
The Avalanche got the break they were looking for when Campbell was sent off at 9:04 of the final frame for high-sticking Dennis Everberg. Defenseman Nick Holden notched the game-winner when his shot from the high slot went off Scottie Upshall's stick and looked to hit Dylan Olsen's body on its way into the net.
Florida's best chance to tie came with about 6:20 left in the tilt, with Tomas Fleischmann getting a couple shots at Varlamov from right in front to no avail.
The Avalanche put the game away when Alex Tanguay blocked a Barkov bid and Jarome Iginla went the other way and scored into the empty net. Jimmy Hayes handcuffed Barkov with a pass in slot that should have went back to either open defender at the points.
Varlamov made 30 stops to post the win while Luongo turned aside 25 shots and got tagged with his second straight defeat.
The Panthers loss coupled with the Bruins win over the Rangers left the Cats three points behind the Rangers for final wild card berth in the Eastern Conference. The Broadway Blueshirts hold a game in hand on Florida, who will play host to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night.
Odds & Sods
- Aaron Ekblad tied Scott Stevens and former Seals/Barons bomber Rick Hampton with 25 points by an 18-year-old defenseman. Those players have more goals than Eggs currently does, so the rookie's next point will put him all alone at sixth all-time on that list. Up next, the trio of Jim Benning, Doug Bodger and Petr Svoboda who all amassed 31 points. Then comes some guy named Bobby Orr. Phil Housley's record of 66 looks to be safe and sound.
- Jarome Iginla's empty-netter was the 573rd goal of his career, forging a tie with the great Mike Bossy for 20th all-time. Iginla paced the Avs with five shots on goal.
- This was the first time since early November that the Cats dropped back-to-back games in regulation.
- Streaky forward Brad Boyes has four points in his last four games.
- Tyson Barrie (1G/1A) and Alex Tanguay (2A) were the game's only multi-point players. Barrie's father Len played 74 games games for the Panthers way back when.
- Defenseman Brian Campbell led the Cats with four shots on goal and had two blocks, but his third penalty proved costly.
- Scale Mile High Hockey for the other side of Avs-Panthers.