DENVER (AP) – Down two goals late, Jonathan Huberdeau and the Florida Panthers didn’t play desperate. They just played determined. Huberdeau scored 29 seconds into overtime after he tied the game late in regulation, and the Panthers beat the injury-riddled Colorado Avalanche 4-3 on Wednesday night.
“We don’t need to panic, even if we’re down two goals,” Huberdeau said. “We’re good. We know we can come back every game.”
Huberdeau sent a backhanded shot between the pads of Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer for the win. He tied the game with 1:30 remaining on a wrist shot through traffic.
Florida trailed 3-1 with around eight minutes remaining. That’s when Aleksander Barkov picked a good spot for his first goal of the season, a power-play tally that started the Panthers on the comeback trail.
“Finally, I did something,” Barkov cracked. “I’m happy.”
Colton Sceviour scored a first-period goal for the Panthers, who went 2-1-1 on a four-game trip. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 27 shots, including a glove save near the end of the third period.
Matt Nieto and Joonas Donskoi scored first-period goals, and Nathan MacKinnon added another in the third to make it a two-goal lead with 12:23 remaining. The Avs were without two big offensive pieces in Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog due to lower-body injuries.
Grubauer stopped 34 shots, but couldn’t hold the late lead. Huberdeau scored the equalizer with Bobrovsky pulled for an extra skater.
“I just thought they were hungrier and playing a puck-possession game in the offensive zone and we didn’t close out enough plays,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “We have to be better at the defending aspect of that.”
Midway through the third period, Panthers center Jayce Hawryluk was reaching for the puck when he took a big hit from Colorado defenseman Nikita Zadorov that sent him crashing into the boards. Hawryluk got up slowly and retreated to the dressing room. Zadorov later got into a skirmish with Dryden Hunt. After being separated, Zadorov had words with the Florida bench before being sent off for roughing.
Panthers coach Joel Quenneville didn’t have an update on Hawryluk. He didn’t have an opinion on the hit, either.
“I haven’t seen it yet,” said Quenneville, who coached the Avalanche from 2005-08.
MacKinnon had a goal and an assist to give him at least a point in all 12 games this season. He matched Joe Sakic (1988-89) for the fourth-longest point streak to start a season in franchise history. The top mark is held by Mats Sundin, who had at least a point in 30 straight games to begin the 1992-93 season.
The Avalanche got gritty goals in the first period from Nieto and Donskoi. Nieto poked in a puck while falling to the ice, and Donskoi knocked in another one near the net to give Colorado a 2-1 lead.
Things turned a little testy at the end of the second period. Hunt stabbed at a puck after Grubauer grabbed it. Cale Makar didn’t like it and shoved Hunt. Then Grubauer pushed Hunt in the helmet. Meanwhile, away from the play, Nazem Kadri and MacKenzie Weegar began fighting. They both drew 5-minute penalties.
Given Colorado’s rash of injuries, Bednar juggled his lines — all except the third unit. Nieto, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Matt Calvert quickly found a connection that Bednar doesn’t want to disrupt. The trio combined on Nieto’s first goal of the game. They have a combined 21 points.
“That’s a game where we have to walk away with two points,” Nieto said.
Grubauer turned in a big save in the first period when a puck deflected off the skate of Avalanche defenseman Mark Barberio and was headed into the net. Grubauer swung his arm around to swat it away.
Makar celebrated his 21st birthday Wednesday but didn’t have a point. His nine assists in October were the most in a month for a rookie defenseman in Avalanche history.
NOTES: Panthers D Aaron Ekblad had two assists. … Bellemare wore the “A” as an alternate captain. … F Jayson Megna made his Avalanche debut after being recalled from the Colorado Eagles of the AHL. … Colorado F Colin Wilson was scratched with a lower-body injury.
Panthers: Host Detroit on Saturday.
Avalanche: Finish a three-game homestand Friday against Dallas.
By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
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