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No. 88 Returns With A Vengeance

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche
It’s been a long time since Peter Mueller had the thrill of scoring an NHL goal. 654 days to be exact.

Mueller tied the game with his first goal of the season in the second period and then found the back of the net again in the third to ignite a Colorado Avalanche rally and a 4-3 overtime victory against the Florida Panthers.

“It feels unbelievable,” Mueller said of his first goal since Apr. 4, 2010. “I wish I could explain more how good it feels to get that one out of the way.”

After missing 40 games due to a head injury this year (not to mention the entire 2010-11 season), Mueller played his fourth game in a row on Wednesday night at Pepsi Center, and his first at home since opening night against Detroit. His five shots in the game helped jump start an Avs attack that struggled to get pucks past the Panthers’ defense in first and second periods.

“He has been through a rough go for the last two years,” said Paul Stastny, Mueller’s linemate in the game. “In the last couple of games he could of scored but didn’t, and he couldn’t have saved it (scoring) for a better time.”

Mueller’s first goal of the game came nearly seven minutes into the second period, tying the contest at one. The Minnesota native picked up the rebound off an Erik Johnson shot and fired the puck five-hole past Florida goaltender Jose Theodore.

“I was a little bit surprised when it came out to me right off the bat,” Mueller said. “I realized that I had a little bit of time. I kind of got all of it and picked a spot where I knew I could feel comfortable with it.”

The Panthers’ retook the lead with a late goal in the period and then added another one early in the third.

After failing on an early power play attempt in the final stanza, Colorado head coach Joe Sacco called a timeout to refocus his team after Florida took a too-many-men penalty at 2:53 of the period.

Whatever Sacco said, Mueller took to heart and scored 43 seconds later, a one-time slap shot from the left circle.

“He got the power play goal and it kind of got us going,” Stastny said.

It was about 13 minutes later when Stastny scored the game-tying goal off a Mueller pass with 3:17 left.

Ryan O’Reilly – who had the key assist on Mueller’s power play goal – capped things off for the Avs, netting the winner with 1:05 left in overtime. It was O’Reilly’s his first regular season overtime goal.

Mueller’s three points – his first points of the season – tied a career high. He has fired 16 shots on goal since his return on Jan. 12 at Nashville.

“Everyone has been so supportive through this whole process,” Mueller said. “What a night to cap it off.”

More Notes

Ryan O’Reilly scored his first career regular season overtime goal tonight…He did score one OT goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs on April 18, 2010 vs. San Jose (Game 3, WCQF).

Colorado improved to 10-2-0 against Eastern Conference teams this season, 6-1-0 at home and 4-1-0 on the road…That .833 winning percentage ranks as the second-best record against the Eastern Conference behind St. Louis (8-0-1, .944).

Tonight was Colorado’s 17th one-goal win of the season, tops in the NHL…The Avs are 17-5-2 in one-goal contests.

The Avs are 11-2 in games that go beyond regulation, 4-2 in overtime and 7-0 in shootouts…Those 11 combined OT/shootout victories are tied with New Jersey (11-2) for most in the NHL.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere picked up his 11th win of the season, matching his total from all of last year with Toronto.

Colorado is 11-4-1 in its last 16 games, 6-2-0 at home and 5-2-1 on the road…The Avs are 10-2-0 in their last 12 on home ice.

Erik Johnson extended his assist/point streak to three games (0g/3a), one shy of his season high… Johnson leads all Avalanche defensemen with 18 assists and his 19 points are just one behind Kyle Quincey for the team scoring lead among blueliners.

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