Sunrise, FL – Despite a hot streak both before and after the All Star Game weekend, the surging Florida Panthers could not heat up early and gave up a lead to the defending champs that the Cats could not replicate, falling to the Avalanche by a score of 5-3.
A Game of Hot and Cold
Florida has been one of the hottest teams in hockey following the All Star Game weekend. After a blowout 7-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Panthers are coming off another impressive 4-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks. Combine that with a stunning win over the Boston Bruins prior to the break, and the Cats are winners of three straight games for the first time this season. They enter the Avalanche matchup with a 26-22-6 record.
The Colorado Avalanche are defending Stanley Cup Champions for a reason. Combine a phenomenal defense with consistent scoring, and you have a team that won their third championship in franchise history, beating the Lightning in six games. The Avs are winners of eight of their last ten games, despite a somewhat mediocre record of 27-19-4; not much better than Florida.
It gets Pretty Rocky Early
The Panthers came out slow, which is rather unnatural when they’re at the FLA Live Arena, and the champs didn’t take long to take advantage. Florida has been a solid team this season when it comes to power play opportunities, and when a tripping call was handed out to the Avalanche, the Cats upped the ante.
Still, on a breakaway with seconds to go in the power play, Colorado right-wing Logan O’Connor collected a handoff and tipped in the puck behind Sergei Bobrovsky for the opening goal, killing the Panthers momentum.
Despite being down early, the Panthers didn’t seem to kick up the energy. Their offense was stagnant and the defense was letting Colorado dominate their side of the ice. It didn’t help matters that the Avalanche are one of the best teams in hockey when it comes to maintaining early leads, just like the Cats.
About five minutes later, the Avs caught Florida lacking again. After another dominant faceoff and flurry of shots by Colorado, left-wing Matt Nieto cashed in on a closeup wrist shot that sailed by Bob to raise their lead to 2-0. That’s how the first period would wind down as the Panthers played one of their sloppiest periods of the season thus far.
Action at an Elevated Rate
With the first five minutes of the second period being uneventful, it was only a matter of time before a turning point in the game.
For the Panthers, they got their spark of energy off a brawl spearheaded by left-wing Ryan Lomberg. Two minutes later, defenseman Aaron Ekblad sank a long-range shot- all the way from the blue line- into the net for the first goal of the day for Florida.
The Cats kept the good times rolling a minute later when center Sam Bennett took a page from Ekblad’s playbook and chucked a wrist shot that floated right of Colorado goalie Alexandar Georgiev for an instant equalizer.
Absolute sniiiiiiiipe 🎯 pic.twitter.com/YkfCY5Vltw— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) February 12, 2023
Colorado would not be outdone. Only 30 seconds later, a long slapshot deflected off of Bobrovsky and was rebounded by defenseman Devon Toews and tapped in for an immediate answer, and Florida was back to trailing.
To Florida’s credit, the second period was completely different in energy from the start of the game. They became the more physical team with delivered hits and breakaways, and almost matched the Avs in shots on goal.
However, Colorado continued the trend of either team scoring two straight goals in the game four minutes later. After a tripping call on the Panthers, center Nathan MacKinnon took advantage of a scrum in front of the net with a wrist shot that sailed to the left of Bobrovsky into the net. This raised the lead back up to 4-2 with the third period on the horizon.
Short by a High Mile
Florida began the third period with clear intentions to get back into rhythm with seven shots in the first five minutes of action, but Colorado’s defense held their own.
It would take an impressive breakaway getting by the Avs defense to set up a goal, and that’s exactly what happened. From one end of the ice to the other, the Cats skated by Colorado’s attackers, and a pass by canter Sam Reinhart set up the captain Aleksander Barkov for a critical goal to cut the lead to 4-3 with nine minutes to go.
Reino to Sasha pulls us within one ‼️ pic.twitter.com/yk3EvGR5Uw— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) February 12, 2023
The Panthers looked for at least one more goal to tie the game up and potentially force an overtime period, but that opportunity never arrived. Between inconsistent passing, a failed chance to convert on a power play, and an extremely close shot that never fell into the net with minutes to go, the Cats couldn’t get another goal on the board.
Florida took out Bobrovsky with a couple of minutes left for some added attackers, but an empty netter by Colorado sealed the game with a final score of 5-3.
Statistics that are High on Life
On a rather quiet night for the Panthers, no player really took control of the game and led the charge against the Avalanche. Reinhart did manage two assists on the night, and Bobrovsky recorded 45 saves on a very busy night.
With 95 combined shots on goal, both teams looked sharp offensively, but Colorado was the team that came out swinging. Still, the Cats managed more hits, faceoffs, power play opportunities, takeaways, and committed fewer penalties.
The loss pushes Florida’s record to 26-23-6, and they’re still in the hunt for a Wild Card spot with less and less games to go. Up next for the Panthers is a four-game road trip that begins against the Minnesota Wild on Monday, February 13th at 8 pm. Their next home game will be on the 20th vs the Anaheim Ducks at 1 pm.