Panthers 4, Avalanche 1

Michael Kelly, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DENVER -- Goaltender Tim Thomas stopped 31 shots for his 200th NHL victory, defenseman Tom Gilbert had three assists and the Florida Panthers beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 on Saturday night.
Defenseman Brian Campbell had a goal and an assist, and right wingers Brad Boyes and Tomas Kopecky and center Jonathan Huberdeau also scored for the Panthers. Right winger Scottie Upshall also had two assists for Florida.
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 29 saves and center Ryan O'Reilly had the only goal for Colorado, which has dropped three straight.
The Panthers came into the game with four wins -- all of which came against teams with winning records and two against first-place teams. They built on that, beating an Avalanche team that had one of the hottest starts in NHL history.
Colorado looked far from the team that won 12 of 13 to begin the season. Florida controlled the play from the beginning and finally went on top when Boyes beat Varlamov with a one-timer 12:40 into the game. It was his seventh goal of the year.
Campbell made it 2-0 when he scored on the power play 1:15 into the second. After O'Reilly cut the lead in half with his eighth goal six minutes later, Kopecky spilt Colorado's defense and lifted a backhand by Varlamov to make it 3-1 with 6:07 remaining in the second.
The Avalanche played desperate in the third but couldn't solve Thomas, who made 15 saves in the period. He had three of them in one flurry midway through that kept it a two-goal game.
Huberdeau scored with 6:44 left to put it away.
NOTES: The game featured the top two picks from the June draft. Colorado C Nathan MacKinnon was the top pick and Florida C Aleskander Barkov went second overall. ... Avalanche D Matt Hunwick played for this first time since being recalled from Lake Erie of the AHL on Nov. 4. ... Colorado LW Cody McLeod's wife, Jessica, gave birth to a baby girl early Saturday morning. It is their second child. ... The Panthers had played 12 one-goal games in their first 20 and six in their last seven games entering Saturday. They were 2-10 in those games. ... Colorado's penalty kill fell from third to ninth in the NHL in the last week.

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