Panthers score late to erase Avalanche three-goal comeback in 5-4 Avs loss


From one moment to the next, the outlook on the Avalanche season can deteriorate from apprehension to hopelessness, or just as easily it can swivel from existential dread to ecstatic amnesia. The defending champion Avs are testing their fans on almost a nightly basis, as they simultaneously test their own resolve.

So it was fitting that in a matter of 11 minutes Tuesday night at Ball Arena, thousands of hockey fans redirected their jeers. At second intermission, scattered boos from frustrated Avalanche faithful showered the players on their way to the dressing room. By the time nine minutes remained in the third period, those boos had reached a cacophony and changed targets: the officiating crew for an overturned would-be game-tying goal. Obvious offsides, but who cared?

J.T. Compher tied it for real one minute later, but a Panthers power play goal with 3:30 remaining ended the party: The Avalanche lost 5-4 for their sixth defeat in the last seven games. Whether the season outlook is alleviated by the fact that Colorado (20-16-3) rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits is in the eye of the beholder.

The game-winning goal was credited to Matthew Tkachuk as Florida hammered away at a defiant Alexandar Georgiev on the power play, but the puck took an unlucky bounce off Evan Rodrigues’ skate and into the net.

Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and Compher had scored in the third period to erase the 4-1 hole after an atrocious middle frame when the Panthers outshot the Avalanche 17-4. At 5-on-5, Colorado was out-attempted 24-6 in the second period. Tkachuk potted a rebound 52 seconds before intermission to deliver the apparent gut punch.

The Avalanche power play finished 0-for-3, including an 0-for-2 second period during which Florida cleared the zone three times in a 50-second stretch. Colorado conceded goals on both penalty kill attempts.

The more troubling issue: There was nothing flattering about how the defense conceded the goals. Nine minutes in, Anton Lundell entered the zone with a 1-on-2 dump and chase against Cale Makar and Devon Toews. The top pairing allowed Lundell to skate through them, Toews lost a battle for the puck in the trapezoid, and as Makar circled back to the net front, Alexandar Barkov arrived with Florida reinforcements. He got behind Cale Makar and backhanded the finish past Georgiev.

Then both second-pairing blueliners made costly mistakes. An uninspiring Erik Johnson giveaway in the offensive zone led to a rush goal for Brandon Montour. After a phantom hooking call on Artturi Lehkonen, Sam Girard mishandled the puck in the slot of Colorado’s own zone. Florida cashed in with a power play goal.

Girard was also on the wrong end of the game’s turning point in the second period. After Makar’s stick-handling drew a penalty, an empty-net rebound fell on Girard’s stick as the power play expired. But he whiffed on a bouncing puck, and Colorado’s chance to slim Florida’s lead to 3-2 fizzled.


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