Milan Hejduk’s penalty shot got the surging Colorado Avalanche back on the winning track. The Avs will look to extend their Northwest Division lead when they face the Florida Panthers at the Office Depot Center.
Hejduk’s second goal of the game came on a penalty shot 59 seconds into overtime Monday night, lifting the Avalanche to a 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It was an interesting finish,” Hejduk said. “Not many times you’ll see a penalty shot in overtime.”
Hejduk, who also had two assists, was awarded the penalty shot after getting tripped from behind by defenseman Brad Lukowich. It was only the third time an NHL game ended on a penalty shot in overtime.
Hejduk also scored on a penalty shot Jan. 11 at Chicago. He has the last two penalty-shot goals in the NHL.
Colorado also got goals from Joe Sakic, Martin Skoula and Alex Tanguay, who added two assists. The Avalanche have lost just twice in their last 11 games (9-1-0-1), and Monday’s victory moved them two points ahead of Vancouver in the Northwest. Colorado’s four-game winning streak came to an end Saturday with a 2-1 home loss to San Jose.
The Canucks, who lost 3-2 to Dallas on Monday, host Tampa Bay on Wednesday night.
Tanguay has four goals and 12 points during a seven-game point streak, and the Avalanche need his production because of the injury problems of Peter Forsberg, who missed his second straight game with a groin injury. Forsberg has sat out 24 games this season because of health problems, and his status will be determined on a daily basis.
The Avs’ David Aebischer continued his outstanding play with 31 saves against the Lightning. He’s 7-1-0-1 in his last nine games.
The Avalanche head southeast across Florida for the second game of a four-game road trip, and will face a Panthers club that has won just once in its last four (1-2-0-1). The Panthers are coming off a 2-1 overtime loss to St. Louis on Monday night.
Olli Jokinen scored for Florida, which has one victory in its last 12 games against St. Louis (1-9-2).
“They’ve been on the top of the league for a number of years now,” Luongo said. “That’s not an easy team to beat whether we’re at home or on the road.”
Despite its recent struggles, Florida is only seven points behind first-place Tampa Bay in the weak Southeast Division. The Panthers have two more games left on a four-game homestand, and are 9-8-5-2 at home, compared to 6-11-5-1 on the road.
Avalanche enforcer Peter Worrell, acquired from the Panthers in July, will face his former team for the first time Wednesday. Worrell played his first six seasons with Florida.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 19): Avalanche - 61 points, 1st place, Northwest Division. Panthers - 43 points, 3rd place, 7 PB, Southeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Avalanche - Hejduk, 23 goals; Tanguay, 39 assists and 53 points; Jim Cummins, 113 PIM. Panthers - Jokinen, 15 goals; Viktor Kozlov, 15 assists; Valeri Bure, 28 points; Darcy Hordichuk, 96 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 19): Avalanche - Power play: 23.7 percent (47 for 198), 1st in NHL. Penalty killing: 87.8 percent (180 for 205), 2nd. Panthers - Power play: 16.5 percent (26 for 158), 10th. Penalty killing: 82.8 percent (169 for 204), 23rd.
GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - Aebischer (21-9-5, 3 SO, 2.08 GAA); Phil Sauve (5-4-2, 2.37). Panthers - Luongo (13-19-9, 3, 2.36); Steve Shields (2-3-1, 3.33).
2002-03 SEASON SERIES: 1-1.
LAST MEETING: March 5; Avalanche, 3-1. At Sunrise, Fla., linemates Forsberg, Hejduk and Tanguay had a hand in each Colorado goal as the Avs improved to 16-1-2-2 in their last 21 games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Avalanche - 12-3-5-2 on the road; Panthers - 9-8-5-2 at home.