Series (Game 2 of 2)

Series tied 1-1

Game 1: Thursday, January 2nd
Game 2: Wednesday, March 5th

Avalanche 3

(33-15-7, 84 pts)

Panthers 1

(20-26-9, 61 pts)

7:30 PM ET, March 5, 2003

BB&T Center, Sunrise, Florida

1 2 3 T
COL 0 1 23
FLA 0 1 01

M. Hejduk (Avalanche - RW): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

P. Forsberg (Avalanche - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 1

M. Cullen (Panthers - C): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

Avs move within 4 points of first-place Canucks

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -- All-Star center Peter Forsberg gave his Colorado coaches and teammates a good scare when he left the game after being hit by a slap shot early in the third period.

But he didn't leave early enough for the Florida Panthers. Forsberg's goal at 3:59 of the final period proved decisive in surging Colorado's 3-1 victory Wednesday night over goal-starved Florida.

Forsberg left the game less than three minutes later, seconds before wing Alex Tanguay added to the Avalanche lead.

"It's always scary when something like that happens,'' Tanguay said of Forsberg's close call. "The way he's been playing, everybody was anxious.''

Forsberg didn't return after being hit in the midsection, but he wasn't injured seriously. Avalanche coach Tony Granato said Forsberg would be in the lineup Friday night at Tampa Bay.

Rob Blake also scored for Colorado, 16-1-2-2 in its last 21 games and 9-1-1-1 in its last 12 on the road.

The victory moved Colorado within four points of first-place Vancouver in the Northwest Division. The Avalanche also have a game in hand.

"We kept it smart,'' said Avalanche goalie Patrick Roy, who made 30 saves. "We were moving the puck pretty well and had a great team effort.

"We had two good days in Florida, everybody had a good time, and we got a win.''

Matt Cullen had the only goal for Florida, winless in its last eight home games. The Panthers have failed to score more than two goals in any of their last six games.

"We've got to shoot the puck hard and go to the net,'' said All-Star center Olli Jokinen. "It seems to be we miss too many shots.

"We've got to keep the game simple and hit the net every single time.''

Colorado improved its all-time record at Florida to 11-1, including two victories in the 1996 Stanley Cup finals.

Forsberg's game-winner came at 3:59 of the third period when he put a rebound past Florida goalie Roberto Luongo. Tanguay had an assist on the goal, extending his point-scoring streak to 15 games -- the longest in the NHL this season.

"Everyone knows what kind of player he is,'' Jokinen said of Forsberg. "He can turn the game around by himself. He scored the game-winning goal, and that's the reason they won the game.''

Tanguay made it 3-1 at 6:14 when he fired a wrist shot over Luongo's left shoulder after skating in from behind the net.

"I struggled early this year,'' Tanguay said. "If I work hard, playing with those two (Forsberg and Milan Hejduk), I'm going to get chances. Lately, I've been making the most of my chances.''

Cullen gave Florida a 1-0 lead at 10:09 of the second period when he tipped in Mathieu Biron's wrist shot from the point. The puck bounced off the post and trickled over the line after hitting Roy on the back of the leg.

"We had a pretty good game going for ourselves,'' Panthers coach Mike Keenan said. "They outmatched us in the third, but we had a fairly solid game going for 40 minutes.''

The Avalanche also got a tip-in for their first goal. With the teams skating four-on-four, Blake was left alone in front of the Florida net, where he tipped Greg de Vries' wrist shot from the point between Luongo's legs.

"That was a big goal,'' Granato said. "They scored and had some momentum, but we were able to bounce right back.''

Game notes

Colorado failed to score the first goal for only the fourth time in its last 22 games. ... Colorado's streak of nine consecutive games with at least one power-play goal was snapped. ... Florida wing Ivan Novoseltsev didn't return after being injured while slamming into the boards late in the second period. ... Colorado played without defenseman Adam Foote. The alternate captain is nursing a hamstring injury. ... Florida defenseman Pavel Trnka returned to the lineup after missing five games because of a knee injury.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press