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The Florida Panthers came to Denver tonight to take on the Colorado Avalanche after a grueling overtime loss against the Winnipeg Jets last night and their early-game effort definitely showed as they took two lazy penalties to put the Avalanche on early power plays.
Given Florida’s strong penalty kill, ranked fifth in the NHL entering tonight’s contest, they were able to get through the early man-advantages and goaltender James Reimer shut down the Avalanche offense early on. Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard was not to be outdone, however, as he matched Reimer save-for-save and the two held serve to a scoreless first period.
The standout goaltending could only last so long, however, and the Avalanche were the ones to breakthrough first as Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon created a little offensive magic and Fedor Tyutin snuck in from the blue line and tucked home a MacKinnon pass for the 1-0 lead at 10:11.
Florida responded six minutes later when Jason Demers cashed in on a puck Pickard should have caught but slightly misplayed with the glove. The goal saw a brief review as the puck went in on off Demers’ skate but it was determined there was no distinct kicking motion and the tying goal stood, sending the game to the third period in a deadlock.
Jaromir Jagr took his second penalty of the game at 5:59 of the third when he hooked MacKinnon and put Colorado on their fifth power play of the game. Instead of converting to give themselves a 2-1 lead, a great play by Derek MacKenzie sprung Reilly Smith for a breakaway and he beat Pickard with a backhand through the five hole that gave Florida the 2-1 lead.
The Panthers weren’t quite done at that point as rookie defenseman Michael Matheson fired a wrist shot from the point that managed to touch nothing along the way and beat Pickard, whose reaction suggested he didn’t see the puck until it was much too late and just like that it was 3-1, Florida.
Not even a late push from Colorado could make it interesting late and Florida walked away with a 3-1 win, handing Colorado their seventh consecutive home loss.
1. Jason Demers
2. James Reimer
3. Reilly Smith
PLAY OF THE GAME/TURNING POINT
Mackenzie’s read on the penalty kill was perfect and Smith did a great job of tracking down the puck and beating Pickard. Really smart hockey from the Panthers that led to the eventual game-winning goal.
BY THE NUMBERS
Colorado hits the road for a Sunday afternoon tilt against the Winnipeg Jets. Puck drop is scheduled for 1 p.m. MST.