Panthers Bury Avs in the Litter Box 4-3 in Overtime


4. 97. Final. 3. 103

In as close to a must-win game as you can get in October in the NHL, the Avalanche put their fans through a roller coaster of emotion, but once again came up short. The Avalanche pick up the pity point in the standings, but their record is a less than sterling 1-4-2 through the first seven games of the season. Some good things happened for the Avs tonight, but the finish leaves those silver linings severely tarnished.

The Avalanche need to string some wins together to build confidence and momentum. The Florida Cats seemed like a perfect opponent to get the kool-aid flowing, having scored a lousy 5 goals through their first 5 games. The Avalanche allowed the Panthers offense to purr, and as a result, Avs Nation is in a solid state of panic right about meow.

The first period was extremely (think of a word that rhymes with kitty) for the Avalanche. Florida took the play to the Avs for the most part, and were able to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room. The Avalanche made some glaring mistakes on each of the Panther goals, and they are mistakes that have been plaguing the Avs all season.

Ryan Wilson had a ghastly turnover in his own zone, which Brandon Pirri burried just shy of five minutes into the game. Next Nick Holden and Tyson Barrie got in on the ‘defense leaving something to be desired’ act on Aleksander Barkov‘s first goal of the season. The Panthers easily transitioned the puck from their own end, Holden made a lazy play at his own blueline to let the Panthers’ rush into the zone, and Barrie flat out got beat to the front of the net.

The second period opened up for both teams, and the Avs re-injected life into the Avalanche faithful with three straight goals. Tyson Barrie redeemed himself with a snipe on the power play on a 5-on-3 at 10:51, and just 31 seconds later, Gabe Landeskog gave the other Panther in the box an early release as well, with his second power play goal of the season. Landeskog did something I’ve been craving for him to do, and made a strong move to the front of the net from the right endline, and put some rubber on net. A yodeler must have been present in the Pepsi Center crowd, because the Avalanche was set off in a hurry.

The second was a high shot volume period for both teams, with the Avalanche holding a slight 17-14 edge by the end of it. Ironically, the Avs go-ahead goal was scored on a pass attempt from Alex Tanguay. Jarome Iginla was aggressively driving the net on a 2-on-1 rush with Tangs, who attempted to slide a pass to Iggy. The puck deflected off the Panther defender into the net, and just like that, the Avalanche found themselves ahead.

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The bad news for the Avs, is the lead wouldn’t last long. Florida scored a late second period goal to tie things up at three, and set up one of the more critical periods of hockey a team can play this early in the season.

The Avalanche really seemed more interested in playing not to lose, than going out and trying to win in the third. The Panthers had the better period overall, meaning they outplayed the Avs in two out of the three twenty minute sessions tonight. If this were boxing, the Panthers would have taken the scorecard. Alas, the game went to overtime, and both teams were given a chance to throw the final knockout punch.

Avs fans lamented a pair of ‘missed calls’ near the end of the third – one for two many men on the ice for Florida (debatable, I only counted 13 guys on the ice), and one for a blatant trip on Brad Stuart. The refs established a precedent that they weren’t going to decide the game with a late penalty call…

… until that is exactly what they did in the overtime frame. After the infamous dry scrape of the playing surface, Barkov took a dive so hard I thought they might have to come scrape him off the ice. Brad Stuart was the nearest to him, so the refs sent him to the box for phantom tripping.

Brad Boyes lasered home a shot from between the circles, and the Panthers buried the Avs hopes and dreams of turning their season around on this night, in a 10x14x6 inch box of sand. This marks the fourth straight loss for the Avs, and fourth straight game in which they have blown a lead.