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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Avalanche Win First in Stanley Final

DENVER -- Now the Florida Panthers know why they're called the Avalanche.

It took them 1 1/2 periods, but the Colorado Avalanche finally solved Florida's suffocating defense and super-steady goalie John Vanbiesbrouck with a three-goal flurry in 3:49 of the second period to win the Stanley Cup opener 3-1 Tuesday night.

"I thought we played great -- except for five-six minutes," Panthers coach Doug MacLean said. "They've got talent and depth, and it's hard to play a perfect game in the Stanley Cup finals."

Scott Young swung the momentum to the Avs with a seemingly soft goal that defused the importance of several early Florida defensive stands. Mike Ricci and Uwe Krupp quickly followed with goals as Colorado seized what history shows is often a series-swinging victory.

And if the Avalanche missed right wing Claude Lemieux, who sat out the first game of a two-game suspension for blindsiding Detroit's Kris Draper, they didn't show it. Patrick Roy's saves and the Avs' speed and depth wore down a team that has thrived in the playoffs with those very same assets.

"We know we've got to be even better as the series goes on," Avalanche coach Marc Crawford said. "We feel good about our performance, but we've got to be even better."

Roy, now trying for his third Stanley Cup with a team that was still the Quebec Nordiques a year ago, preserved the lead with 25 saves in his record-setting 133rd playoff start.

"He was sensational," Crawford said. "That's why we went out and got him. He knows what it takes to win games in the playoffs."

Roy, cast aside by the Montreal Canadiens following an in-game argument with the coaching staff in December, broke the games-played record set by Billy Smith, formerly of the New York Islanders and now Florida's goaltending coach.

"I felt great, and I knew I had a great defense playing in front of me," said Roy, who was serenaded with choruses of "Roy, Roy, Roy."

What does winning Game 1 mean?

"It means we're three wins away," Roy said. "I want to win another Stanley Cup, and I know the other guys in the room want to win it, too."

The Panthers, making the Cup finals in only their third season of existence, weren't supposed to be here -- and in Colorado's fatal and near flawless second period, they weren't.

Maybe it was the mile-high atmosphere getting to a team that stockpiled canisters of oxygen in their dressing room. Or maybe it was effects of playing a third critical game in a six-day span, in which the Avalanche only relaxed.

But the Panthers fell as flat as the McNichols Arena ice midway through the second period after its defense dictated the early tempo, and playoff star Tom Fitzgerald's goal at 16:51 of the first period gave them a 1-0 lead.

"And we had five or six quality chances we couldn't finish," MacLean said.

Florida had just killed Colorado's second power play of the period when Young deftly sailed a 25-shot slap shot by a screened-off Vanbiesbrouck's left shoulder at 10:32 of the second. Vanbiesbrouck never seemed to read Young's shot as it came out of three players crowded high in the slot. With momentum now shifting their way for the first time, the Avalanche seemed convinced Vanbiesbrouck was beatable. He was.

Ricci, making up for a subpar regular season, made it 2-1 at 12:21, taking the puck off the back boards and directing it by Vanbiesbrouck while falling face-first into the net.

After that, it was the Panthers' offense that fell flat, managing only five shots in the period.

Valeri Kamensky set up the Avs' pivotal third goal, freezing the defense by faking a shot from the left circle, only to slip the puck to Krupp as he skated unimpeded to the net at 14:21.

The Panthers have won consistently in these hard-to-read playoffs with a defense-first approach, but that doesn't work so well with a two-goal disadvantage. Only Vanbiesbrouck prevented a possible runaway by twice stopping playoffs scoring leader Joe Sakic on breakaways and by poke-checking the puck away from Kamensky on a 2-on-1 rush.