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Colorado Avalanche 6, Florida Panthers 5 FINAL @NHLdotcom

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) _ Not even a disastrous first period could slow down the Colorado Avalanche.

After spotting Florida a three-goal lead Wednesday night, the Avalanche rallied for a 6-5 victory when Alex Tanguay completed a hat trick with 5:41 left.

``We sure could have made it easier on ourselves by starting off better,'' Tanguay said. ``We were lucky we were just down 3-0 because it could have been worse. We came out flat.''

Milan Hejduk, Joe Sakic and Andrei Nikolishin also scored for Colorado, which had to rally again after Florida took a 4-3 lead.

``Even when we were 3-0 down, we were not out,'' Hejduk said. ``We can score some goals.''

Colorado is tied with Toronto for the most points in the NHL (63). The Avalanche is 10-1-0-1 in their last 12.

Stephen Weiss and Valeri Bure each had a goal and two assists, and Juraj Kolnik, Pavel Trnka and Marcus Nilson also scored for the Panthers, who lost for the seventh time in games it led by at least two goals.

``That's our problem, we get ahead and then we seem to get away from our game,'' Nilson said. ``Once we get the lead we have a problem playing the same way for 60 minutes. A team like that has a lot of firepower.''

Colorado backup Philippe Sauve stopped 24 shots and is 5-0-1 in six starts. Roberto Luongo made 23 saves for the Panthers before being replaced late in the third period by Steve Shields.

``It's going to be a tough game for any goalie,'' Luongo said. ``I tried to do my best but obviously I wasn't that successful.''

Tanguay completed his first hat trick of the season when he tipped in John-Michael Liles' wrist shot from the point to make it 6-5. He earlier gave Colorado its first lead of the game at 5-4 when he outfought defenseman Mathieu Biron and put in a loose puck from the slot.

``You just put your stick out there and hope you hit it,'' Tanguay said. ``I guess it was a little bit lucky. I'll take those any day.''

His first goal tied it at 3 in the second period.

After Tanguay's second goal, Nilson made it 5-5 when at 7:48 he put in a rebound from the side of the net.

``I thought we worked our tails off,'' Florida coach Rick Dudley said. ``And I thought for much of the game we were as good or better than them.''

After Florida grabbed a 3-0 lead in a dominating first period, Colorado got back in it with three unanswered goals in the second. Sakic and Tanguay scored 19 seconds apart.

Florida went ahead 4-3 on Bure's beautiful power-play goal when he one-timed Weiss' cross-ice pass.

But the Avalanche came right back when Nikolishin took advantage of a scramble in front that eventually brought Luongo to the ice. Nikolishin picked up the loose puck and put in his own rebound.

Weiss opened the scoring just 1:49 in. Kolnik made it 2-0 on another rebound, and Trnka completed the first-period scoring when he jammed in yet another rebound.

``You come out of the gate like that and don't play well for the first 20, that is why it's a 60-minute game,'' Colorado coach Tony Granato said. ``We were able to take advantage of the last 40 minutes and make up for what we did in the first.''

Hejduk began the Colorado comeback when he held the puck until Luongo went down and put a shot in over him.

Sakic closed the gap to 3-2 with a wrist shot from the slot on a four-on-three power play.

``It was great for hockey and great for the fans,'' Hejduk said. ``The coaches maybe were close to a heart attack.''

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