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Florida Panthers Stay Red Hot, Win Wild One in Colorado

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Sam Reinhart is congratulated by the Florida Panthers bench after scoring his third goal of the day to give his team the lead back for good in a 8-4 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Florida Panthers watched a three-goal lead evaporate quickly in the second period Saturday, but it did not affect them.

Powered by four-point efforts from Matthew Tkachuk and Sasha Barkov and a hat trick by Sam Reinhart, the Panthers overpowered the league’s top offense in an 8-4 rout of the Colorado Avalanche.

“I think we’ve got a bit of a veteran team now,” Florida coach Paul Maurice said.

“If you play in the NHL long enough, you are going to have a night where your big lead disappears and you don’t panic.

“I think they’ve got a lot of faith in each other in the game, and even though we haven’t been a high-scoring team this year, we are capable of generating more offense. It’s not the first thing we’re trying to do, but I think they’ve got a lot of confidence in each other.”

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The Panthers won the first six of this seven-game winning streak with their patented grit-and-grind defensive style.

Saturday, their star players had to come to play.

After Reinhart and Verhaeghe led Florida to a three-goal first period, Colorado stars Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon helped the Avalanche back into a deadlock just 4:35 into the second period.

And while Oliver Ekman-Larsson gave the Panthers the lead heading into the third period, Jonathan Drouin applied the pressure with a breakaway goal at 3:31 to tie the score at 4.

The Panthers got a break quickly after that, going on a full two-minute 5-on-3 power play less than two minutes later; Florida’s stars provided the death blow.

Reinhart finished off a tic-tac-toe play from Tkachuk and Barkov to put Florida ahead, secure the hat trick, and move into second in league scoring with 28 goals.

“I think a lot of it comes from finding the right spots on the ice,” Reinhart told Bally Sports Florida’s Katie Engleson of his recent success.

”I’ve been playing with some pretty good players that are able to give me some time and space. Especially with the last one on the 5-on-3, Chucky and Barky made a pretty smart play to give me about 10 feet of ice to fire it home. So a lot of it is just finding the right spot at the right time.”

Kevin Stenlund extended Florida’s lead to two precisely three minutes later with a no-look backhand shot that found the top shelf.

Tkachuk and Verhaeghe picked up empty-net goals with less than four minutes to go.

For Verhaeghe, it was his 22nd goal of the year and his seventh since the Panthers started their seven-game winning streak.

Reinhart is the only player in the league to score more goals in that span, with 10.

“I see the same thing you see,” Barkov said of Reinhart.

“On both ends of the ice, he is an amazing player, I’ve said enough good things about him. He just reads the ice so well, he plays the game so well, and on top of that, he is a very big threat to score goals and make plays.”

ON DECK

FLORIDA PANTHERS @ ST. LOUIS BLUES 

  • When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Enterprise Center, St. Louis
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • This Season (St. Louis Leads 1-0) — At Florida: Blues 4, Panthers 1 (Dec. 21). At St. Louis: Tuesday.
  • Last Season: Blues won 2-0
  • All-time Regular Season Series: St. Louis leads 27-12-1, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Thursday vs. Los Angeles, 7 p.m.

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