Improbable run nearing its end for Panthers


MIAMI -- No, they will not just throw their sticks onto the ice and concede the Stanley Cup to the Colorado Avalanche.

But trailing three games to none heading into Game 4 tonight at Miami Arena, the Florida Panthers have to realize their fairy-tale season is about to get an ugly ending.

The Panthers played their best game Saturday, maybe the best they are capable of playing against the Avalanche. And still they lost, 3-2.

"We're facing tough odds," Panthers forward Bill Lindsay said. "They've put themselves in almost an unbeatable position."

That may be true. Since 1939, when the NHL began using its best-of-seven format, only one team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in games -- the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs.

But the Colorado Avalanche gives no indication it will copy the 1942 Detroit Red Wings, the team the Maple Leafs caught and beat in seven games.

The Avalanche is beating the Panthers with timely scoring, strong defense and excellent goaltending.

About the Colorado offense:

"Give them credit," Panthers defenseman Gord Murphy said. "Of all the teams we faced in the playoffs, they have the most speed and depth up front. It's not like Pittsburgh was, when we had to concentrate on two or three guys and go from there. They've got the ability to make the big play. One mistake, and the puck ends up in our net."

About the Colorado defense:

"We couldn't seem to get anything through," Panthers defenseman Jason Woolley said. "Whether they were wrist shots or slap shots, they seemed to be getting blocked. It was like they had two or three goalies out there. It's definitely frustrating."

On Colorado goalie Patrick Roy: "It's frustrating because we played better [in Game 3]," said Panthers forward Scott Mellanby, who was robbed on a point-blank shot by Roy in the third period Saturday that would have tied the score.

So, what now?

"I think, up until [Saturday] night, we didn't test Roy enough," Panthers captain Brian Skrudland said. "There were spurts when we went after him, had some screens, got in his face.

"[Game 3] was the first time in this series where we really challenged him," Skrudland said of Roy. "In a way it's disappointing that we haven't brought more to this point."

Stanley Cup finals

Florida vs. Colorado

(Colorado leads series, 3-0)

1'Day .... .... Site/result .... .... TV

Game 1 ...... Colorado, 3-1

Game 2 ...... Colorado, 8-1

Game 3 ...... Colorado, 3-2

Today ....... at Florida ..... .... ESPN

Thursday* ... at Colorado .... .... ESPN

Saturday* ... at Florida ..... .... ESPN

June 17* .... at Colorado .... .... 45, 5

Note: All games start at 8 p.m.

*-If necessary

Pub Date: 6/10/96

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