DENVER – The Florida Panthers may still be in line for a postseason spot, although tough overtime losses like those from Wednesday night could derail their hopes.
The Panthers lost for the 10th time in overtime this season – more than any team in the league – when Ryan O'Reilly's goal beat Jose Theodore and handed the host Avalanche a 4-3 win.
Florida led 3-1 early in the third when Tomas Kopecky scored on the opening shot of the period.
The Panthers have lost seven straight away from home (0-3-4) and nine of the past 12 overall. Florida is 3-10 in overtime/shootouts this season.
“Whenever you have a two goal lead in the third, you want to win. Yeah, we're disappointed,'' a curt Stephen Weiss said. “We know how to play. It's just a matter of us burying our chances when we had them and they got half a chance and it went in. That's the difference.''
Weiss looked to be one of Florida's heroes as he snapped his 15-game goal drought by putting the Panthers up 2-1 late in the second period. Yet after Kopecky scored 20 seconds into the third, the Avalanche battled back and found a hero of their own.
Peter Mueller was playing in just his fourth game of the season after missing all of last year and the first 40 of this one. Mueller scored the Avs first two goals of the night and may have had a piece of the game-tying goal credited to Paul Stastny with 3:17 left.
Colorado fans, who thought the goal should goal to Mueller, showered the rink with hats and ski caps anyway.
Florida had plenty of chances in the third to extend its lead but failed to score on a four-minute power play and looked tired late. The Avs outshot Florida 17-7 in the third period.
“The altitude probably played into it,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “There was a fatigue factor going down the stretch and we were playing hang-on hockey. That's a tough way to play the game.''
The Panthers had starting goalie Jose Theodore back in the net for the first time since he was run over in the second period of Florida's 3-2 win over Montreal on Dec. 31.
Theodore looked sharp for much of the game against the hard-shooting Avs – whom he played for for parts of three seasons – and stopped 40 shots.
Florida took a 1-0 lead in the opening period when Marcel Goc knocked in a loose puck while battling in front of the net during a power play.
Weiss made it 2-1 in the third. The last time Weiss had gone 16 games without a goal was during his first full season with the Panthers back in 2003.
As is usually the case during long slumps, the puck found an unorthodox way into the net. Weiss, playing in his 600th NHL game Wednesday, charged in on goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere but was pulled down by Colorado's Ryan O'Byrne.
Weiss hit the ice and slid hard into the goalie and the cage. He also took the loose puck with him as it rolled across the line to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead with 1:12 left in the second period.
Weiss is now 13 games away from tying former teammate Radek Dvorak for the top spot in games played in franchise history.
“He worked hard for that goal,'' Dineen said. “Nothing's coming easy right now.''
The Panthers gave up on Russian winger Evgenii Dadonov on Wednesday, trading him and center A.J. Jenks to Carolina for a pair of prospects. Dadonov was Florida's lone representative at last year's All-Star Weekend (he played in the future game) but had a poor training camp and was sent to AHL San Antonio soon after the season started.
Dadonov, 22, played in 15 games for the Panthers this season with two goals and an assist. He had eight goals in 36 games last season. Florida got AHL center Jonathan Matsumoto and 20-year-old winger Mattias Lindstrom from the Hurricanes. Lindstrom, a third round pick in 2009, is playing in Sweden this year.
() Defenseman Ed Jovanovski had surgery on his broken right hand on Wednesday and coach Kevin Dineen said the 35-year-old could be out as long as two months. Jovanovski broke his hand during a first period fight Monday.
() Tomas Fleischmann played in his first game in Denver since leaving the Avs as a free agent on July 1. Fleischmann had 21 points in 22 games for the Avs last season before his season was ended in February because of blood clots in his lungs. Fleischmann, who came to Colorado last season in a trade with the Capitals, was stopped on a great scoring chance in the third period.