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No Panic In Avs' Win Over Panthers

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

There was no panic to the Colorado Avalanche's offense.

Not after the visitors held a lead twice and the Florida Panthers came back each time to tie the game. Not after Florida had an 8-1 shots advantage early in the first period. Not after the Avs were unable to capitalize on their first four power-play opportunities.

But as its fifth man-advantage chance was just about to expire, Colorado's patience paid off as the team found the back of the cage. Nick Holden scored on a shot from the high slot that made its way through traffic, and the goal held as the game-winner Thursday in the Avalanche's 4-2 victory over the Panthers at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

It was a shot by Holden that seemed to have eyes for the twine behind Florida goalie Roberto Luongo—thanks to some help from a redirection—but the rubber wouldn't have been able to get past the all-star netminder without the play of Cody McLeod.

Standing in front of the crease, McLeod tied up Florida defenseman Dylan Olsen and provided enough of a screen to disrupt Luongo's sight line, allowing safe passage of the puck at 11:03 of the final stanza.

At the time of the score, there was just one second remaining on Brain Campbell's high-sticking penalty.

"Macker had a great net-front presence," Holden said of his third goal of the season.

McLeod's play also drew strong praise from Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy after the final buzzer.

"Heck of a play by Cody," Roy said. "I don't know if he gets an assist on that one, but he did everything. He was the one in front of the net, paid the price and screened the goalie. He deserves a lot of credit for that goal for us."

Colorado's resiliency began early after Tyson Barrie scored on the team's first shot of the game at 2:11.

The Panthers weren't down for long, as they tied the game on a power play at 5:15 and held an 8-1 shots-on-goal advantage midway through the stanza.

The game, though, evened out as Colorado finished the opening frame strong and used the momentum to propel it into two more solid periods of hockey. The Avs outshot the Cats 28-24 in the final 50 minutes.

"I thought we started to dominate the second half of the first period, and from there on we kind of controlled the game," said Holden.

The victory moves Colorado's record to 1-1-1 on its current five-game road trip, earning three of a possible six points so far, but the way the team won might have been more telling for what the future holds for the squad.

After allowing the Washington Capitals on Monday and the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday to control nearly a whole period—with 20 shots on goal in each instance—the Avs were much better in tightening up on defense and not allowing the Panthers to dictate too much of the play for too long.

"It was something that we talked about before the game," Roy said of limiting the opposition's shot total. "They had a lot of good chances in the first and [goaltender Semyon Varlamov] was very good, but I thought we regrouped after the first and did much better cutting down on shots in the second and the third.

"We had a chance to play .500 hockey (on the road trip) and now we have a chance in Tampa (on Saturday) to play over .500 hockey on [this] trip."

CLOSING IT OUT

There have been plenty of times this season where the Avalanche had a lead or was tied in the third period, only to give up a late goal late.

That wasn't the case after Nick Holden's tally midway through the final frame in South Florida. Colorado played smart defensively and kept the offensive pressure on the Panthers to hang on for its fourth victory in the last six games.

Jarome Iginla sealed the contest with an empty-net score from the neutral zone with 27 seconds remaining.

Iginla's goal was his 13th of the season, tying him with Alex Tanguay for the team lead, and the 573rd of his career. He is now tied with Mike Bossy for 20th place on the NHL all-time goals list.

EVERBERG REJOINS THE TEAM

Dennis Everberg returned to the Colorado lineup Thursday after missing the past nine games while in the American Hockey League. To make room on the roster, the club reassigned forward Ben Street to the Lake Erie Monsters.

Everberg entered the game with one goal and three assists in two previous stints with the Avalanche. He has now played in 20 NHL games this season.

The Vasteras, Sweden native, who was on the Avs' opening-night roster, was last reassigned to the Monsters on Dec. 28 as Roy wanted the 6-foot-4 rookie to get more playing time and find his timing again. Everberg missed eight contests in November and December with a shoulder injury, and he was only averaging seven to eight minutes a game and had recorded no points in the six games after his return.

RENDULIC INJURES FOOT

Forward Borna Rendulic injured his foot during the first period on Thursday and missed the remainder of the game.

The rookie Rendulic began the night on the right side of a line with fellow wing Dennis Everberg and center John Mitchell, and the trio was on the ice together when Tyson Barrie opened the scoring for the Avs at 2:11.

Colorado double shifted for the rest of the contest with top-six right wings Jarome Iginla and Nathan MacKinnon replacing Rendulic on the line.

The Croatian native is in his second stint with Colorado and has appeared in eight of the last nine games.

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