Florida Panthers

Another ‘letdown in the second’ spoils Panthers’ strong start against red-hot Avalanche

Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) misses the puck as the Colorado Avalanche score in overtime to defeat the Cats at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, Friday, October, 18, 2019.
Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) misses the puck as the Colorado Avalanche score in overtime to defeat the Cats at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, Friday, October, 18, 2019. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov flicked a pass to from the left circle to linemate Jonathan Huberdeau late in the first period Friday. Huberdeau, standing directly in front of the net with a clean shot against Colorado Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer, took aim and shot without hesitation.

The puck slid under Grubauer’s left leg.

Another early Panthers goal — Huberdeau’s second and the Panthers’ third in the first 15 minutes.

Maybe the Panthers’ early-game woes were behind them.

Then again, maybe not.

The Panthers gave up their lead with another second-period collapse and saw their chances at a marquee win against the NHL’s hottest team come to a sobering end.

Final score from the BB&T Center: Avalanche 5, Panthers 4.

The game-winning goal: Nathan McKinnon’s shot in front of the goal past Sergei Bobrovsky about three minutes into overtime.

The Panthers (2-2-3) have lost four of their past five games — including three either in overtime or a shootout, thus still earning points — while the Avalanche (6-0-1) remain the only team in NHL this year to not have a loss in regulation.

“A letdown in the second,” Huberdeau said.

One that spoiled a marquee first period by Huberdeau.

He put the Panthers on the board three-and-a-half minutes into the game when he charged in from the left side and had a shot ricochet off Grubauer’s glove and into the net.

Frank Vatrano added a short-handed goal — his first goal of the season and the Panthers’ second of the year when playing in a man-down situation — about five minutes later to break up Huberdeau’s first-period scores that gave Florida a 3-1 edge at the first intermission.

Huberdeau now has three goals in his past two games and has recorded at least one goal or assist in each of the last six games.

But the Avalanche dominated the second period. They tied the game with goals from Matt Nieto and Andre Burakovsky in a span of 32 seconds.

Even when Brett Connolly put the Panthers back up by a goal later in the period, Burakosvsky responded with another game-tying score 16 seconds later.

“It was a high chance game,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “Both teams had their time when they had possession of it, but I thought the second period, we were very sloppy. We weren’t controlling the game like we did in the first period.”

A scoreless third period brought up overtime, where Nathan Mackinnon sealed the game.

Grubauer, who gave up those three first-period goals, saved 27 of 28 shots in the final two periods and overtime to allow Colorado to stay in the game long enough to finish the comeback. That included a dozen stops in the third period, highlighted by a point-blank save against Huberdeau with a minute left in regulation.

“We had a lot of chances to score at the end,” Huberdeau said, “but he made some great saves.”

This and that

The Panthers used seven defensemen in Friday’s game. Mark Pysyk rushed as the right wing on the third forward line with Frank Vatrano and Denis Malgin pregame and was used in spurts throughout the game.

Henrik Borgstrom and Jayce Hawryluk were healthy scratches on Friday.

The Panthers held the Avalanche scoreless on their two power play opportunities, with Bobrovsky saving five shots over the six minutes Florida played down a skater. The Panthers entered Thursday ranked sixth in the NHL in penalty kill efficiency (86.7 percent).

Florida heads on the road to face the Nashville Predators for their second set of back-to-back games in a week. Sam Montembeault is expected to be the Panthers’ goaltender.

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Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.
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