DENVER – Matthew Tkachuk scored his second goal of the game with 3:30 remaining and the Florida Panthers beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-4 after blowing a three-goal lead in the third period Tuesday night.
Tkachuk kept swiping at the puck down low on a power play until defenseman Cale Makar finally pushed it toward the side. But the puck went in off the skate of Avalanche forward Evan Rodrigues.
“He’s built for it, right?” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said of Tkachuk in late-game moments. “He doesn’t mind going to the net. Eventually that’s what happens. It’s not the pretty ones at that time.”
Aleksander Barkov, Brandon Montour and Sam Bennett all scored in the first period to give the Panthers a quick 3-0 start. Tkachuk added another goal in the second.
“He’s scored big goals for us all year and there’s just another one,” Bennett said about Tkachuk.
Trailing 4-1 midway through the third, Colorado got goals from Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon just 20 seconds apart. J.T. Compher tied it with 7:53 left, moments after the Avalanche had a goal disallowed on a successful Panthers challenge for offside.
“We give up three goals right away. That’s tough,” Rantanen said. “It’s tough to come back and we did.”
The Avalanche were frustrated with Rantanen’s penalty for interference that put the Panthers on the power play, leading to Tkachuk’s winner. Florida might have caught a break with a high stick that wasn’t called.
“I didn’t like the sequence at all,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “I mean, Compher takes one in the face in the neutral zone. They let it go. Thirty seconds later, we’re getting called for one — on one I think a guy embellishes a little bit. I’m just thinking, let the players decide it.”
Added Rantanen: “I’m not saying anything about the refs, I’m just saying it’s a high stick. That’s all I’m saying.”
The Avalanche pulled goalie Alexandar Georgiev with around a minute to go but couldn’t get the equalizer.
Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 27 shots for Florida.
Andrew Cogliano also scored for the Avalanche, who have dropped six of their last seven games (1-5-1). Georgiev made 32 saves in his 12th straight start — most by a Colorado goaltender since Semyon Varlamov made 22 in a row in 2015.
Both teams could potentially combine for a piece of history they really don’t want. Florida and Colorado were two of the top squads in the NHL last year, with the Panthers earning the Presidents’ Trophy for most points during the regular season and the Avalanche hoisting the Stanley Cup.
With each team currently outside the playoff picture, this could mark the first time in the NHL’s modern era (since 1943-44) when the reigning No. 1 seed from the regular season and the defending Stanley Cup champion didn’t have a playoff spot at the halfway point of the season, according to NHL Stats. The Panthers are past the halfway mark, but Colorado has two more games before the midway point.
Tkachuk has 22 goals and 29 assists in 39 games. He’s the third Panthers player to reach 50 points in 39 or fewer games, joining Pavel Bure (34 games in 1999-00) and Jonathan Huberdeau (twice: 37 games in 2021-22, and 38 games in 2019-20).
AROUND THE RINK
Colorado defensemen Josh Manson and Bowen Byram have resumed skating. Both are out with lower-body injuries. ... Bennett, Barkov and Montour each had a goal and an assist. ... MacKinnon scored his 253rd career goal to move past Anton Stastny for fifth place on the franchise list.
Panthers: At Vegas on Thursday to finish their four-game trip.
Avalanche: At Chicago on Thursday. Colorado’s next road win would be No. 500 in the regular season since the franchise relocated from Quebec to Denver before the 1995-96 season.