The Florida Panthers fell 3-2 to the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night (Dec. 12) in Denver. The loss ended the Panthers’ five-game point streak and dropped them to 18-5-4 on the season. Colorado improved to 16-7-2 with the win. Here are three takeaways from Florida’s tight road loss.
Burakovsky Beats the Panthers by Himself
It was the Andre Burakovsky show Sunday evening at Ball Arena. The 26-year-old winger opened the scoring near the end of the second period, sending home a power-play goal top shelf off a great backhand feed from Mikko Rantanen to put the Avalanche up 1-0 with 23 seconds left.
Burakovsky added another goal two minutes into the third period, again off an assist from Rantanen. After Frank Vatrano sent a chance right in front of the Colorado net wide, Aaron Ekblad whiffed on a slapshot, and Burakovsky took off the other direction. Upon entering the Florida zone, he passed it off to Rantanen, then finished off the play by backhanding the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky to put the Avs up 2-0.
The Panthers got one back on a Joe Thornton goal 7:41 into the third, then tied it up with 9:45 remaining, when Carter Verhaeghe found a trailing Brandon Montour, who sent it past Colorado goaltender Darcy Kuemper. The deadlock wouldn’t last long, however, as Burakovsky completed his first career hat trick less than two minutes later, taking a backhand feed from Nathan MacKinnon, finding some space, and wristing a shot past the blocker of Bobrovsky.
Burakovsky, who won a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018, has been a key part of Colorado’s league-best offense (108 goals, five more than the next team), registering 20 points (12 goals and eight assists) through 24 games this season.
Thornton Moves up the All-Time Points List
Thornton’s third-period goal, a power-play shot past the glove of Kuemper off a cross-ice pass from Verhaege, was the 42-year-old’s 1,534th career point in the NHL (427 goals, 1,106 assists), moving him past Mark Recchi for the 12th-most career points in NHL history.
Thornton, who signed a one-year deal with the Panthers in August, has five points (three goals and two assists) in 16 games so far this season. Next up on the all-time list for him is Ray Bourque, who had 1,579 career points. The closest active player to Thornton is Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, who has 1,364 career points.
Other notable performances Sunday include Verhaeghe, who had two primary assists and a takeaway, Kuemper, who stopped 29 of 31 shots, and Rantanen, who assisted on each of Burakovsky’s three goals.
Opportunities Missed for Panthers
Despite missing two of their leading scorers (Aleksander Barkov and Anthony Duclair), the Panthers had a chance to steal at least a point on the road against one of the league’s best teams. They had four power-play opportunities, including one near the end of the game, when Rantanen went to the box for cross-checking with 1:18 remaining.
With a pulled goalie, the Panthers threatened, but couldn’t take advantage of the six-on-four edge. Overall, Florida went one for four on the power play, registering 10 total shots. The Panthers also out-shot the Avalanche in all situations (31 to 26), but couldn’t get as many in the net as Burakovsky.
Coach Andrew Brunette thought the Panthers played well but just didn’t get the result, saying, “I think we managed the puck very well. We’re not going to play a faster counter team than the one we played tonight, so I thought we limited that by doing the right things. Usually, when you do the right things, you get rewarded. Tonight, we didn’t.”
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The Panthers, who are now tied with the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs for most points in the NHL (40), return home the play the Ottawa Senators (8-16-1) on Tuesday. Puck drop is slated for 7:00 PM ET at FLA Live Arena. The Avalanche host the New York Rangers (18-6-3) Tuesday night at 9:00 PM ET.
Grant is a freelance writer covering the Florida Panthers/Columbus Blue Jackets and contributing to Morning Skate for THW. He started his own sports blog (Head in the Game) in 2013 and worked in the sports information department while at Trine University, from where he graduated in 2019. You can follow Grant on Twitter @G_Tingley.