Looking at the Avalanche's record after leading after two periods this season — 27-0-2 — one might assume third periods have been as leisurely as the pace of life in many Sunshine State communities.

Many games, however, have been like Friday night's "Hold On For Dear Life" special at the BB&T Center.

Leading by three goals after two periods, the Avs were put through the heavy spin cycle the final 20 minutes by the Florida Panthers before the clock ran out on them and Colorado barely escaped with a 3-2 victory.

Avalanche fans had to hold their breath for one last Florida shot with about five seconds left, one of 20 in the third period for the Panthers, before the final horn sounded. In the Avs' case, two good periods overcame one bad one. And a win's a win.

"This is something we're going to have to be better at," said Avs coach Patrick Roy. "We've got to learn to win those 4-1 types of games. I thought that was a great test for us in some ways, because we were up by three goals and we knew they were going to put pressure on us. I thought it was a good opportunity for us to play a strong third period in our own end, and it wasn't the case. We didn't move our feet as much in the third. But we were outstanding in the first two periods."

Florida activated its defense in the offensive end and applied nearly nonstop pressure the entire third period, but Semyon Varlamov stopped 18 of the 20 shots — with only two, both by Scottie Upshall, beating him.

The Avs received goals from Ryan O'Reilly, Paul Stastny and Jamie McGinn in the first 33 minutes of the game, and were just as dominant most of those minutes as Florida was in the final period.

"Good thing we gave ourselves a good lead there," said O'Reilly, who scored against Florida goaltender Tim Thomas from behind the net just 1:34 into the game for a quick Avs lead. "Varly played great for us again. We've got to be better than that in the end, at least a little more sound defensively and make sure we don't give them those inside shots."

That's the thing about that third: Florida didn't just get a big shot differential by throwing lots of desperation, faraway pucks at Varlamov. They were in the blue paint much of the time, pounding away with good chances.

"We knew it was going to be a tough battle, and we played a good first two periods to get ourselves ahead," said McGinn, who converted on some loose change in front of Thomas at 13 minutes of the second for his 11th goal. "They had a sense of urgency there in the third and you have to credit them, but I'm happy for the boys in getting the win. It's a good way to start the road trip."

The Avs didn't quite have their full lineup — John Mitchell stayed back in Denver with the flu; he likely will rejoin the team Saturday — but had a deep offensive lineup anyway with the return of Alex Tanguay after a 36-game absence. The Avs came out flying with a great first period, building a 2-0 lead capped off by Stastny's 14th goal at 16:13.