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Joe Sakic scores OT winner as Colorado rallies to beat the Panthers 5-4

Sakic scored a power-play goal 25 seconds into overtime as the Colorado Avalanche rallied past the Florida Panthers 5-4 on Tuesday. Sakic got open in front and Paul Stastny hit him with a pass from behind the net. Sakic's goal ensured Skrastins had a memorable evening. He played in his 486th straight game, tying Tim Horton for the longest streak by a defenceman in NHL history. Skrastins can break the mark Thursday night at home against Atlanta.

"This is a game that is going to stay in my memory for my whole life," Skrastins said. "The win was a good present from my teammates, and special thanks to Joe for the overtime goal.

"It's going to be a better memory for me, for sure."

Stastny tied the score - with an assist from Sakic - with 36.7 seconds remaining and the Avalanche skating 6-on-3. They pulled goalie Jose Theodore while Florida's Bryan Allen (interference) and Ville Peltonen (delay of game) were in the penalty box.

"Joe just made a great play," Stastny said.

The Panthers want to forget this game as quickly as possible after giving up two goals in the final 62 seconds. They were outshot 19-4 in the third period, and the only shot in overtime resulted in Sakic's goal.

As for the penalties, the Panthers couldn't argue.

"They are calling them nowadays and calling things real tight," said Chris Gratton, who had a goal and two assists. "So we have to be a smarter team.

"And you can't give Joe Sakic a chance on the power play. He's going to win the game when you give him a shot from the slot."

Sakic, who needs three goals to become the 17th player in NHL history to reach 600, deflected the credit toward Skrastins.

"It was his big night, and he has really been tremendous and had a great career," said Sakic, who also had two assists. "He is really well-deserving of this.

"He has bumps and bruises everywhere and he keeps coming to play."

The same can be said of Theodore, who started for just the second time in 17 games. Theodore was rewarded with the start for his hard work in practice and not sulking since being demoted in favour of Peter Budaj. Theodore had 28 saves.

"He was very good tonight," Avalanche coach Joel Quenneville said. "That first period wasn't pretty at all from our vantage point.

"He made several key stops. A lot of times he was all alone. He gave us a chance to stay in the game and it was nice to give him a win."

Brett Clark, Tyler Arnason and Wojtek Wolski also scored for Colorado.

Florida goalie Ed Belfour was the hard-luck loser, stopping 36 shots.

"Eddie gave us a chance," Gratton said. "He made the big saves, but you can't expect him to do it when you are a man or two men short."

Olli Jokinen, Nathan Horton and Jozef Stumpel added goals for the Panthers, who led 4-2 heading into the third period.

"With a two-goal lead going into the third, you should bring it home," Jokinen said.

But the Avalanche were playing with a purpose - for Skrastins. They were determined to make this a special night for him, even if it meant Sakic stealing some of his thunder.

Not that Skrastins minded.

"Maybe we got lucky, but it feels like a good team win," Skrastins said. "It means a lot to me.

"It's one of those things that I can be proud of about myself."

Notes: Colorado F Brad May, who underwent reconstructive shoulder surgery Sept. 28, might be back in uniform Thursday night against Atlanta . . . Juraj Kolnik needed stitches to close a cut above his lip after he was hit by Ossi Vaananen's stick. There was no penalty called . . . Before the game, Colorado activated defenceman John-Michael Liles from injured reserve. Liles had been out since breaking his left foot at Minnesota on Jan. 6.


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