The Panthers were all smiles following Tuesday night’s 4-3 overtime victory over Colorado at Pepsi Center.
Florida had its biggest offensive output of the season, won its first overtime game and are now 2-0-1 with the final game of this four-game trip coming Saturday in Arizona.
Brad Boyes won it with a power-play slap shot midway through overtime.
“[Tuesday] was by far our best game as a group,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said after a brief practice in Denver on Wednesday morning.
“We’re real happy with some of the things we did.’’
Tuesday’s game was a back-and-forth affair in which both teams suffered from some questionable calls.
Florida, 0-2 in overtime before Tuesday, led 2-0 after the first period before the Avalanche roared back with three straight goals in the second.
Colorado cashed in with two power play goals in a span of 31 seconds.
The first came on a 5-on-3 chance after Erik Gudbranson was called for delay of game. Television replays showed the puck appeared to deflect off the glass and shouldn’t have been a penalty.
The Panthers tied it late in the second when Sean Bergenheim redirected a hard shot from Dylan Olsen.
The two teams kept things tight in the third, but Colorado looked to re-take the lead when Nick Bjugstad was called for interfering with goalie Reto Berra.
Bjugstad was driving the net for the go-ahead goal when he was tripped up by Berra when he came out to play the puck.
“I thought they called it on the goalie and then they had the puck,’’ Bjugstad said. “I don’t know what happened. I don’t think I interfered with the goalie. He tripped me as I was making a move so my shoulder went into him a little bit. You can’t blame the refs. We won.’’
Roberto Luongo started heading to the Florida bench when he saw a penalty was upcoming, assuming said call was going against Colorado.
When he realized the Avs were rushing up ice and no whistle had blown, Luongo rushed back to his position and made an awkward save on Gabriel Landeskog.
“I thought, for sure, it was a hook or something especially when the goalie came charging out,’’ Luongo said. “I was coming to the bench, saw them with the puck and thought maybe the ref was confused a bit. Then there was no whistle and I was able to race back, thank God, before they got an empty-net goal. It would have been ugly if they would have scored like that.’’
After that, however, the calls all went Florida’s way.
The Panthers should have been nabbed for having too many men on the ice and weren’t. Tomas Fleischmann was dead to rights on a tripping call and was ignored. And then came a weak penalty on Colorado’s Brad Stuart to put Florida at a 4-on-3 advantage in overtime.
A power play in overtime is usually successful as this one proved to be as well. Boyes took a feed from Jonathan Huberdeau and buried the shot.
“There were a few calls we didn’t think were the right ones but they let some of ours go late in the game that they owed us,’’ Boyes said.
“I don’t know if it evened out because they tied it [on Gudbranson’s call]. That was tough for us and got them back into it.’’
Said Gallant: “The game ended as it should have.’’
▪ With the win, Luongo passed original Panthers’ goalie John Vanbiesbrouck for 13th all-time with 375 career victories.
▪ Florida took the initial lead 4:43 into the game when Brandon Pirri scored his first of the year off a booming slap shot from 45 feet out.
Pirri had been a healthy scratch in the first four games but had a number of scoring chances in his season debut Saturday.
With center Dave Bolland still out with a lower body injury, Pirri should remain in the lineup.
“I want to have to make hard decisions,’’ Gallant said. “Pirri played well, scored a goal and was good on both ends of the ice.’’
▪ Aleksander Barkov scored his first goal of the season, making it 2-0 when he connected on a cross-ice pass from Aaron Ekblad.