Recap: All hail Cale as Panthers pull out 5-4 win over Avalanche

Tkachuk forces late own goal to rescue Cats from choking

Matthew Tkachuk scored twice to lead the Florida Panthers to an up-and-down then up again 5-4 win over the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena.

The Panthers almost blew a three-goal third period lead, but Tkachuk rescued his club from a potentially huge choke job with a power-play goal with 3:30 left in regulation.

After taking a pass down low from Sam Bennett, Florida’s All-Star took three whacks at it before a desperate Cale Makar pushed the puck across the crease and off the skate of Evan Rodrigues for the winner. All hail, Cale! In soccer that’s a own goal. In this case it goes down as unassisted marker for Matthew.

Paul Maurice reconfigured his lines prior to the game and it paid off in spades in the early going as the Cats roared three times in the opening period.

Anton Lundell chipped and chased down the puck behind the net before centering in front to fellow Finn Aleksander Barkov. Barkov fought through some traffic before converting on the backhand at 9:07 for his tenth of the season.

Brandon Montour would put the Cats up by a deuce 2:45 later. Bennett started the play off by intercepting Eric Johnson and headmanning to Carter Verhaeghe while falling down. Verhaeghe carried into the Avalanche zone before he pulled and spotted the trailing Montour, who ripped a shot by Alexander Georgiev.

A turnover by Samuel Girard with the Panthers on a power play let Samson Reinhart to center to yet another Sam in front and Bennett buried it at 13:47 to make it a three-goal Florida lead. Wham, bam, thank you Sams!

Colorado broke through when Andrew Cogliano lit the lamp with 54 seconds left in the frame. Makar craftily flipped a pass over Verhaeghe’s stick to Kurtis MacDermid and he settled it before taking a shot from the right circle that Cogliano deflected by Sergei Bobrovksy. It looked like Makar got away with a cross-check eight seconds before goal, but thems the breaks...

Florida completely dominated the second period, outshooting the Avalanche 17-4, and Tkachuk finally put another by Georgiev at 19:08 when he knocked in the rebound of Barkov’s one-timer from sharp-angle. Montour collected the secondary assist for rounding the net before feeding Barkov in the left circle.

Firmly in control after forty minutes, the Cats laid an egg in third, letting the home side reel off three goals to even the score.

Mikko Rantanen pulled the Avs within two via a nifty wraparound, from Brad Hunt and J.T.  Compher at 6:29, and then Nathan MacKinnon shot through Bobrovsky 20 seconds later with a highly-stoppable looking wrist shot from the right circle. The assists on MacKinnon’s goal went to Rantanen and Girard.

Compher forged a 4-4 tie at 12:07 when MacDermid’s shot from the left point struck his upper body and then he was able to turn and snap the fallen puck past a screened Bobrovksy. Rodrigues swept the puck back along the boards to McDermid for the second helper.

Nick Cousins drew an interference call on Rantanen and Tkachuk’s hard work resulted in the eventual game-winner with ten seconds left in the penalty, allowing the Panthers to escape the landslide and leave Denver with two points.

The victory over the Stanley Cup champs put the Cats (19-19-4) back at NHL .500 and will hopefully serve as a springboard as they embark on the second half of the schedule. The last stop of the trek west comes Thursday night in Las Vegas. A win at T-Mobile Arena would makes this road trip a very successful one. A loss means more mediocracy.

Peaks & Valleys

  • Matthew Tkachuk extended his point streak to four games and reached 50 points (22G/29A) assists) in the fewest games of his NHL career (39). Tkachuk, who registered a game-high seven shots. became the third Panther to get 50 points in 39 or fewer games, joining Pavel Bure (34 in 1999-00) and Jonathan Huberdeau (37 in 2021-22, 38 in 2019-20).
  • Florida became the first team since the Philadelphia Flyers on March 18, 2021, to pull out a win in regulation after surrendering a lead of three goals or more in the final frame.
  • In addition to his assist, Cale Makar played a game-high 30:39, registered four shots on goal and was credited with two hits and two blocks.
  • His goals against average rose and his save percentage fell, but Sergei Bobrovsky (27 saves) managed to pick up his tenth win of the season.
  • Losing keeper Alexander Georgiev has started each of Colorado’s last 12 games, the longest run of his NHL career.
  • For more on the latest clash between the ‘96 Cup combatants, ascend to Mile High Hockey./