Avs storm back to win in OT
DENVER – It was only a matter of time until the Avalanche tied this one up. And after that, it was all Joe. The Colorado Avalanche pulled to within one of the Florida Panthers on Tuesday early in the third period and then scored in the final minute of play to send the game to overtime, where they won, 5-4.Joe Sakic netted the game winner on the power play 25 seconds into the final frame, improving the Avs to 26-25-4. “It was certainly fun for us – the most thrilling win we’ve had all year,” said Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville. “The guys were having a lot of fun with it, but it’s only one game, and we can’t get too excited about it.” The Panthers, coming off a 7-0 loss to the Kings on Saturday, dominated the first two periods but couldn’t hold on.”I thought we had a real good effort. We lost three forwards, and we ran short in the end, and penalties cost us in the end,” said Panthers coach Jacques Martin. Trailing, 4-2, heading into the third period, the Avs came out on fire, and Brett Clark put his team within one on a shot from the slot.
The Avs dominated the rest of the period, outshooting the Panthers, 19-4, but couldn’t solve Florida goalie Ed Belfour again until the final minute. After an interference penalty to Florida’s Bryan Allen with 50 seconds left, teammate Ville Peltonen fired a puck over the glass, giving the Avs a two-man advantage.Sakic won the ensuing faceoff in the Florida end, and Tyler Arnason carried the puck to the Florida net, firing a backhand. Belfour saved the shot, but Peter Stastny was right there to slam the puck home. Give and goSakic won the faceoff to start overtime, and the Avs brought the puck in the Panthers’ end. After a few passes, Sakic took the puck from the point and passed to Stastny on the side of the net. Stastny looked up to find a streaking Sakic, who slammed the puck past Belfour. “When you give a guy like Joe chances like that on the power play, he’s going to win the game for you,” said Florida’s Chris Gratton. “He’s a heck of a player, and he stole the show tonight.” The Panthers took five penalties in the third to the Avs’ one.
“They are calling things real tight, but you like to think that when two teams are battling like that to get back into a playoff race, they’ll let a little bit go. But we’ve gotta be a smarter team,” Gratton said. “I think you can be the beneficiary either way, and that’s what you see – the unpredictability of games and finishes. The third-period leads that aren’t safe like they used to be,” Quenneville said.One reason the Avs were still in the game was goalie Jose Theodore. Although the Panthers scored two goals in each of the first two periods, Theodore put away 28 shots. “He was great for us,” Quenneville said. “He made some key stops, and the coverage was kind of loose in the slot.”With the Panthers leading, 4-2, late in the second, Clark went to the box to give Florida a brief two-man advantage. Theodore shut the door and brought his team into the locker room with some energy. Costly mistakesWojtek Wolski gave the Avs a 1-0 lead 3:24 into the game, but after that, the Panthers netted three in a row.
Florida captain Olli Jokinen got things started seven minutes in, easily banging home a Gratton slapper that deflected off the post. Following some poor stickhandling by the Avs, Peltonen fed Nathan Horton in the slot, and Horton rifled a one timer over Theodore’s shoulder. Gratton gave the Panthers their first two-goal advantage early in the second, redirecting a backhanded feed by Jokinen.Less than two minutes later, Arnason, who had the Florida defensemen’s number all night, brought his team to within one. After a string of chances by the Panthers, Arnason broke free just inside the Florida end, weaved between two defensemen and faked out Belfour. ShotsColorado’s Karlis Skrastins tied the NHL record for consecutive games played by a defenseman with his 486th straight game in uniform. He has a chance to break the record Thursday when the Avs host the Atlanta Thrashers. Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at email@example.com or 984-9368.