After burning Colorado for his third highlight-reel goal in 1½ periods, Florida's Pavel Bure turned to goaltender Patrick Roy and dropped his jaw, as if in amazement at the ease of Wednesday night's performance.
By the end of the evening, it was Peter Forsberg and the Avalanche who left the Panthers' mouths agape.
Colorado exploded for seven goals in the final 22 minutes to stun the Panthers 7-5, with Forsberg leading the charge with three goals and three assists.
Forsberg's unassisted goal with 1:31 left capped a four-goal outburst in the final five minutes as the Avalanche roared back from a 5-0 deficit.
"I don't know what happened. I'm still trying to figure it out," said Joe Sakic, who had three assists for the Avalanche. "I guess it was just meant to be."
Colorado's six third-period goals tied the franchise record set seven times previously and broke the Florida record for most goals allowed in a period.
"I haven't seen anything like this before," Panthers coach Terry Murray said. "This is the biggest meltdown I've ever seen. Absolute total embarrassment."
Adam Deadmarsh, Chris Drury and Milan Hejduk also scored during the Avalanche's final flurry, in which they scored four goals on their final eight shots. Claude Lemieux also scored as Colorado remained unbeaten in its last 10 road games (8-0-2).
The Avalanche won despite the absence of newly acquired Theo Fleury, out indefinitely after spraining his right knee Monday night in his Colorado debut. The high-scoring forward was acquired from Calgary on Sunday in a five-player deal.
"You don't see what happened tonight happen often," Colorado coach Bob Hartley said. "A coach likes to talk about character and determination, and that is what this team displayed come the third period of the game."
Florida had built a 5-0 lead late in the second period on the strength of Bure's 11th career hat trick. Bure scored a short-handed breakaway in the first period, then added two power-play goals for his 11th career hat trick. The final one came when he fired a bullet over Roy's left shoulder after deking a defender from the right circle.
| Peter Forsberg enjoyed a six-point night. (AP)|
But Bure sat out the third period after complaining of soreness in his right knee, which caused him to miss eight games last month.
"It was getting worse and worse in the second (period)," said Bure, who has 13 goals in 11 games since arriving in Florida. "With about five minutes to go in the second, there was just so much more pain."
Amazingly, the lead didn't stand up, even though Florida still led 5-3 with five minutes left.
Deadmarsh brought the Avalanche within one with a power-play goal at 15:00 and Drury tied it just 41 seconds later, outracing Kvasha to poke home a loose puck that skittered behind Sean Burke on a long shot by Shjon Podein.
"When we got the fourth one, I thought, `Now we're close with a lot of time left,'" Forsberg said. "We just kept on digging."
Hejduk put Colorado ahead 6-5 with 2:20 left when he beat Burke from the right side a split second before he was leveled by Bret Hedican. Forsberg capped the rally 49 seconds later with a nice solo effort.
Colorado peppered Burke with 18 shots in the final period after attempting just 16 through the first two. Florida also was hurt when Viktor Kozlov's goal at 5:16 of the third was disallowed because Rob Niedermayer was in the crease.
"That was disappointing," Murray said. "That was an easy play to avoid. You've got to get out of the crease."
Forsberg broke Colorado's drought when he backhanded a shot past Burke at 18:11 of the second period. Lemieux scored a power-play goal 17 seconds into the third to bring the Avalanche within 5-2, and Forsberg scored again at 7:15 when he squeezed a shot between Burke and the right post.
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