DENVER (AP) – Tim Thomas made himself right at home in his adoptive state.
Thomas had 32 saves for his 200th NHL victory and Brian Campbell had a goal and an assist in the Florida Panthers’ 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.
Brad Boyes, Tomas Kopecky and Jonathan Huberdeau also scored, and Tom Gilbert had three assists for the Panthers.
Ryan O’Reilly scored for Colorado, which has lost three straight. The bad news kept coming for the Avalanche when coach Patrick Roy said star center Matt Duchene injured an oblique during the third period. He played only three shifts after the second intermission.
“Hopefully it’s not too serious,” Roy said.
The Avalanche have cooled off after setting a franchise record for the hottest start through 16 games. They dropped road games in Carolina and St. Louis and came home looking to turn things around against lowly Florida.
Thomas had a lot to do with Saturday’s loss. The 39-year-old goalie moved to the Colorado Springs area in 2012, where the elevation is more than 2,000 feet higher than Denver.
“I don’t know if it’s the mountain air,” he said after looking sharp on consecutive nights. “Obviously, I lived out here in Colorado the last year, but I felt real good and I was seeing the puck real well.”
The Panthers, who lost in Minnesota on Friday, looked like the fresher team throughout. They outshot Colorado 14-10 in the first period and had more scoring opportunities. They cashed in when Scottie Upshall found Boyes alone in front of the net, and he beat Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov with a wrister to make it 1-0 with 7:20 left in the first period.
Varlamov finished with 29 saves.
“We set the pace pretty good,” Gilbert said. “We’ve had slow starts and we just got pucks deep and played a great game down low.”
Colorado stayed on its heels in part because of four penalties – one a double-minor for high sticking by Nate Guenin. The Panthers capitalized on that early in the second when Campbell’s slap shot from the top of the circle beat Varlamov to make it 2-0 1:15 into the frame.
It was the first two-goal lead of the season for the Panthers.
“It’s nice playing with a lead, it’s a good feeling and that’s what you want all the time,” Campbell said.
The Avalanche cut the deficit in half when O’Reilly’s shot went off Gilbert’s leg and past Thomas early in the second, but Kopecky restored the two-goal lead when he scored 2 seconds after Colorado killed off its fifth penalty in the first 33 minutes of the game.
“We got some energy back after the goal and gave up a goal,” Roy said. “We were battling and played them more even in the third.”
Colorado amped up the pressure in the third, but couldn’t get one past Thomas, who made 15 saves in the period. Huberdeau sealed it with his fifth goal at 12:16 of the third.
“We haven’t had the lead very often, but when we have had it we’ve played pretty well,” Thomas said. “We play very composed with the lead and that’s a good sign. It’s been our goal at times this year. The last thing we need is to have problems in that area.”
NOTES: Upshall had two assists. … Avalanche D Matt Hunwick was in the lineup for the first time since being recalled from Lake Erie of the AHL on Nov. 4. … Colorado was the second stop of the Panthers’ five-game, eight-day Western Conference road swing. … Avalanche LW Cody McLeod’s wife Jessica gave birth to a baby girl early Saturday morning. … Florida’s five wins have come against teams with winning records. It was the Panthers first win in Denver since Jan. 2, 2003.
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