SUNRISE, Florida (Ticker) -- Pavel Bure sat out the third
period, and so did the Florida Panthers.
Bure recorded a hat trick before resting his sore right knee and
the Panthers collapsed without him, surrendering six unanswered
goals in the third period and losing to the Colorado Avalanche,
"No, I haven't seen anything like this before," Florida coach
Terry Murray said. "This is the biggest meltdown I've ever
seen. Absolute, total embarrassment."
Peter Forsberg matched Bure with his first hat trick in nearly
two years, adding three assists to more than make up for the
absence of newcomer Theo Fleury. Acquired Sunday from Calgary,
Fleury sat out with a sprained right knee that could keep him
sidelined for a week or two.
Colorado appeared lethargic without Fleury, falling behind 5-0
as Bure had a shorthanded goal and a pair of power-play tallies
for his second hat trick of the season.
But the Avalanche stretched their road unbeaten streak to a
franchise-record 10 games (8-0-2).
Scott Mellanby's goal with 4:48 left in the second period
extended Florida's lead to 5-0, but Forsberg started the
Avalanche's comeback just under three minutes later.
"I thought we started to show a few signs of stopping skating on
their first goal," Murray said. "They beat us in all situations
-- going to get the loose pucks, in all three zones. They were
stronger, they were faster. Forsberg basically took it in his
own hands to go out and get the job done. He was a force out
Forsberg picked up an assist on Claude Lemieux's goal 17 seconds
into the third and, after an apparent tally by Panthers center
Viktor Kozlov was disallowed, scored again at 7:15 to cut the
margin to 5-3.
Forsberg collected another assist on Adam Deadmarsh's power-play
marker with five minutes to play and rookie Chris Drury tied it
41 seconds later when he got to a rebound of Shjon Podein's
bad-angle shot and poked it past a beleaguered Sean Burke.
Milan Hejduk, another rookie, put Colorado in front with 2:20
remaining. Joe Sakic threw a pass in front to Hejduk, who
fought off Kozlov's check and put the puck between Burke's pads.
The goaltender may have swept it across the goal line with his
Forsberg completed his fourth career hat trick 49 seconds later,
stealing the puck at the blue line from Radek Dvorak, fighting
off Oleg Kvasha's check and putting a backhander under Burke. It
was Forsberg's first hat trick since April 2, 1997.
"Which coach would you like to speak to, the first and second
period coach or the guy who coached the third?" joked Colorado's
Bob Hartley. "This game has got to be a lesson for us. We must
start the game with the kind of intensity that we finished with
The six points were a career high for Forsberg, who had five
assists against Los Angeles on February 23, 1996.
Early on, however, it looked like Bure's night. After Kvasha
opened the scoring on the power play midway through the second
period, Bure recorded a natural hat trick, the 11th of his
He beat Patrick Roy on a shorthanded breakaway with 5:24 left in
the first period before notching consecutive power-play goals in
a 6:06 span of the second. Mellanby finished off a 2-on-1 with
Dvorak with 4:48 left to stretch Florida's lead to 5-0.
"After our sixth goal was disallowed with a man in the crease,
that was the crack in the door I think they talked about on
their bench," Murray said. "That was a disappointing goal."
As for the loss of Bure, he said, "It hurts, there's no doubt. I
think after the second or third shift, I'm sure they saw he
wasn't coming out, there's something wrong. And they get
excited about that, also. But it's 5-1 going into the third
Roy surrendered five goals on 20 shots and was replaced by Craig
Billington to start the third period.
"You don't see what happened tonight happen often," Hartley
said. "A coach likes to talk about character and determination,
and that is what this team displayed in the third period."
The loss prevented Florida from moving into a tie with Boston
for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Panthers are
just one point ahead of 10th-place Montreal.