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Panthers and Avalanche done playing each other — for a while, anyway

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Florida Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas and Colorado Avalanche forward Andre Burakovsky have a chat during their game at FLA Live Arena in October. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

The Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche met for the second and final time this NHL season on Sunday night.

Regular season, anyway.

According to FanDuel, the Avalanche are the betting favorites to win the Stanley Cup — and the Panthers have the second-highest odds along with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

NHL Betting Odds

Could the Panthers and Avs meet again this year?

Well, it has obviously happened before.

Back in 1996, the expansion Panthers and recently-relocated Avalanche met to decide who would take home the Stanley Cup.

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Colorado, formerly the Quebec Nordiques, won those Finals pretty convincingly, sweeping the Panthers to end a rubber rat-fueled, Cinderella season.

Perhaps there is a rematch in the offing.

There is still a lot of hockey left to be played, both teams have a long way to go before even contemplating such a scenario.

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Colorado isn’t even atop its own division much less the Western Conference right now.

But there is plenty of time for the Avs to get there.

This is obviously a very talented team, one the Panthers went toe-to-toe with Sunday despite (again) missing two of their leading scorers in Sasha Barkov and Anthony Duclair.

Colorado, to be fair, was also missing a key piece in captain Gabriel Landeskog as well as Nazem Kadri.

The two teams certainly did not look like they were missing anything Sunday night in Denver, a game Colorado won 3-2.

Even though the two are the highest-scoring teams in the NHL, there was not much room to operate through the first 40 minutes.

Shots on goal came at a premium and the Avalanche did not score the game’s first goal until the final minute of the second period.

Andre Burakovsky got that first goal on a power play chance — and he ended up scoring all three Colorado goals in the game.

Florida found itself down 2-0 early in the third period and, the way things were going, it looked pretty dire for the Panthers.

Instead, Joe Thornton scored a power play goal to cut the deficit in half with Brandon Montour scoring the game-tying goal less than two minutes later.

“It’s a hard place to play with the altitude and they have a good team,” said Thornton, whose teams threw up 17 of its 33 shots on goal in the third period.

“But I think we poured it on them in the third period and it could have been a different result. That was two good teams going at it.”

Burakovsky bit the Panthers again in the third and Florida turned into a desperate team throwing everything it had against goalie Darcy Kuemper.

Florida ended up with 60 shot attempts in the game, a large percentage of them coming in the final 20 minutes.

“We have showed all year that we don’t quit,” Sam Bennett said after the game. “We push right to the end. It was a good job by us to tie it up, came real close at the end to doing it again, but we couldn’t capitalize. It was an intense game for sure, physical, fast-paced.”

The Panthers won the first game against the Avs early in the season, winning 4-1 on home ice.

Florida ended up winning its first 11 home games this season before losing to the expansion Seattle Kraken.

The Panthers have not lost in Sunrise again.

Florida knows it needs to be better on the road, but this three-game trip was a step in that right direction.

The Panthers had plenty of chances to win Tuesday in St. Louis, had their opportunities in Denver as well.

Now the Panthers return home for two games before going back on the road.

”I thought we competed all night, set out what we wanted to do,” coach Andrew Brunette said. “We played a pretty good road game and fell a little short. A couple bounces here or there, and it’s a different ballgame.

”This is a fun place to play and they are a real good team. It was a good challenge for us. I thought we had fun, we competed and did a lot of good things. There are some things we can improve on. That third period, we really dug in.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK

OTTAWA SENATORS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS 

  • WHEN: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
  • WHERE: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise 
  • TV/STREAMING: Bally Sports Florida
  • RADIO: WQAM 560
  • Last season: Did not play
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Cats and Leafs

As good as Florida has been this year, playing against talented “big” teams is a problem for them. Colorado is good, but it was the way they inflicted their will on the smaller Panthers that concerns me. In a 7 game series against a Blues or Avalanche team, I think the bruising beats out the speed and talent. Depending on whom they meet in the playoffs, bigger teams will pose an issue. Hopefully it won’t happen until the cup final against a Western team.

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