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Panthers Wrap-Up: Panthers 4, Avalanche 1

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers

1 2 3 OT T
Panthers 1 2 1 0 4
Avalanche 0 1 0 0 1
FLA - B. Boyes (7), PPG - B. Campbell (3), T. Kopecky (2), J. Huberdeau (5)
COL - R. O'Reilly (8)

DENVER, COL —  ( - It looks like new coach Peter Horachek has breathed new life into the Florida Panthers, and the Colorado Avalanche have suddenly fallen on hard times.

The Panthers played a strong all-round game Saturday at Pepsi Center to defeat the slumping Avalanche 4-1 for their second win in the past three games and first road victory since a season-opening win Oct. 3 against the Dallas Stars..

"We made a commitment that we were going to change things around. Although it hasn't happy overnight, we're headed in the right direction and that's what you see happening on the ice right now. We really have guys committed, working extremely hard. For example after this game, we're obviously very happy and celebrating but a lot of guys were pretty tired so it wasn't like we were out of control and that's a good sign because that means we put in the effort to win.."

- Panthers goaltender Tim Thomas.
1. Grabbing The Lead: Florida had played well in their last several games but have been finding themselves playing from behind. In fact, Florida hadn't scored first in a game since the Oilers game on Nov. 5, six games ago. That changed as the weathered the storm in the opening three minutes where Colorado fired six shots on net and then grabbed the lead with 7:20 remaining off a great passing display. Aleksander Barkov didn't receive credit on the goal but he kept the puck in the zone and Tom Gilbert found Scottie Upshall who in turn found Brad Boyes all alone in front of the net for a Cats lead. Colorado would give Florida plenty of opportunities to double that lead thanks to penalties and the Panthers converted early in the second for a two-goal advantage. Upshall and Gilbert again combined to set up Brian Campbell who released a laser top shelf just 1:15 into the second.

2. Trading Puck Luck Goals: Holding a two goal lead, puck luck came into play for the next two goals scored six and a half minutes apart. Colorado finally got one past Tim Thomas as Ryan O'Reilly, racing up the ice tried to send a pass over to Mitchell but the puck deflected off Gilbert's skate and past Thomas. The Cats would get that goal back off some good fortune of their own. Late in a power play, Gilbert attempted to shoot the puck in but the puck hit a Colorado player and bounced right to Tomas Kopecky. All alone and past the Colorado defense, Kopecky made no mistake in netting his second goal in two nights.

3. Complete Victory: Playing in their second game in two nights after a hard fought loss and up 3-1 with 20 minutes to play, the Panthers again weathered a Colorado flurry as they threw everything at Thomas early in the third looking to get to within at least one if not more but Thomas came up big. Helped out by the skaters in front of him, the netminder was forced to make a save and then the puck was cleared or frozen. When he was tested, he was there, robbing O'Reilly on one particular chance. Florida put the game away with Jonathan Huberdeau's fifth of the season with 7:44 remaining as he cashed in on a rebound off Nick Bjugstad's initial drive to the net and shot. For Florida it might have easily been their most complete victory of the season as they kept Colorado in their own zone for long stretches and if not for the play of Semyon Varlamov mighe have been a 5-1, 6-1 final. It was the first time that Florida won in Colorado since Jan. 2, 2003.
Memorable twitter posts from the game.

@wgudbranson: Great effort by the entire @FlaPanthers team

@alex414: @FlaPanthers good game against the Avalanche. Keep up the good work, guys.

@ROMANTIC_787PR: @FlaPanthers @PartyCity hopefully this is the start of winning more games let go cats

@ayywicked: i'm loving this new coach, he's had a great start. #PantherNation @FlaPanthers

@sarahmpineda: It's been too long since we've played that well and won woooo #FlaPanthers

Memorable fan posts from the game.

Brendan Feingold: Best game of the year boy! Keep playing like this and we have a shot to get back into the hunt!

Rosa Ruiz: Thanks Tim Thomas and the rest of the Cats.

Raymond Petersen: Was at the game. They played outstanding!

Jennifer Ferrara-Bejerano: This was an AMAZING game!! Total cohesive unit from start to finish. The team is finally playing the way we knew they could! Great job guys, you absolutely deserve this win! Keep them coming!!

Bill Crippen: Great game...finally we play hard for 60 minutes!

1 / 200. He's paid to stop the pucks but netminder Tim Thomas picked up his first assist in his Panther career as he picked up the second assist on Tomas Kopecky's goal giving the Panthers a 3-1 lead in the second period. Stopping 32 Colorado shots on the night, Thomas registered his 200th NHL career victory.

3. Defenseman Tom Gilbert had a had in the Panthers first three goals, picking up assists on each of them to tie a career high. Gilbert has had three assists in a game five times in his career, last posting a three-assist night on Nov. 19, 2011 against Chicago while with Edmonton.

5. A couple of fives collected on the Panthers fourth goal to put the game away in the third period. Jonathan Huberdeau netted a goal in back-to-back games and his fifth overall while picking up the first assist on the play, Nick Bjugstad registered his fifth helper on the season.

14. The Panthers offense was consistent in the first two periods as they posted 14 shots on net in each of the two periods. Florida and Colorado finished with 33 shots on net in the game.

82. A game after Marcel Goc dominated in the face-off circle, winning 87% of his draws, it was rookie Aleksander Barkov's turn to post fantastic numbers as he won 82% of his face-offs, losing just twice on 11 attempts.

Tom Gilbert
Thomas was good in goal but Gilbert tied a career high with three assists in helping set up the Panthers first three goals.

3 Assists, 3 Points, +2, 2 hots, 22:41 TOI
The Panthers will have two days off before taking on the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night (10pm). The Canucks, who host Dallas on Sunday, have recorded 25 points (11-7-3) in their first 21 games, good enough for eighth in the Western Conference. They're led offensively by the Sedin twins with Henrik recording 21 points in 21 games and Daniel posting 17 points in 21 games. Netminder Roberto Luongo has recorded a 9-5-3 record with 2.38 GAA and .912 save percentage between the pipes.

Author: Glenn Odebralski |

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