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The Colorado Avalanche are one victory from a Stanley Cup finals sweep.

They won 3-2 Saturday night, staying cool in Game 3 as Florida stormed the net in the first period and screaming fans showered the ice with plastic rats after Panthers goals.The Avalanche regained the momentum - and the lead - after allowing 14 straight shots in the opening period, scoring twice in the first three minutes of the second period and never trailed again.

On Monday night, after Game 4, the signs of success on the Miami Arena ice may not be artificial rodents tossed in celebration. Instead, Avalanche players could be scurrying about with the Cup overhead.

"One of the reasons we've had success is they haven't looked past a challenge," Colorado coach Marc Crawford said. "The next challenge is to finish off the series."

Only one team - the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs - has come back from a 3-0 deficit in the finals since the best-of-7 format was adopted in 1939.

And the last time two straight finals ended in sweeps was in 1982 and 1983 when the New York Islanders won two Cups.

Claude Lemieux was the MVP of last year's finals, won by New Jersey in a sweep of Detroit. And he gave the Avalanche a 1-0 lead Saturday night 2:44 into the game on his first shot since serving a two-game suspension for a vicious hit on Detroit's Kris Draper.

But goals by Ray Sheppard and Rob Niedermayer 2:05 apart gave Florida its first lead since the opening period of Game 1 as it showed signs of renewed life after Thursday night's 8-1 embarrassment in Denver.

"They had us on our heels in the first period," Crawford said. "Once we got going in the second period and started doing simple things effectively that changed the complexion of the second period."

"Colorado's defense in the second and third period was outstanding," Florida coach Doug MacLean said.

The 2-1 lead after one period had to be disappointing for the Panthers, considering their return home for Game 3 and their 16-6 advantage in shots.

That lead quickly disappeared as Mike Keane scored 1:38 into the second period and Joe Sakic connected at 3:00 to give the Avalanche a 3-2 lead.

Behind the revived offense, Colorado goalie Patrick Roy played up to his reputation as a magnificent playoff goalie. He stopped 27 shots in the first two periods when his team was outshot 28-16.

"Patrick's seeing the puck very well right now," Crawford said. "He's playing with a great deal of confidence. He's a real leader for us."

Roy won two Stanley Cups with Montreal, which traded him to the Avalanche last Dec. 6. He has won seven straight finals games.

Roy's team can make history by becoming the first club since the NFL's Washington Redskins in 1937 to win a title in its first year following relocation. In 16 years as the Quebec Nordiques. the Avalanche never made it to the finals.

The Miami fans, though, never gave up even though Colorado had the NHL's second-best road record.

With 1:10 left and a faceoff to the left of Roy, they stood and waved white towels to spur their team on. But when the final buzzer sounded, they launched their unused rats onto the ice.

Sakic's winning goal put the Avalanche captain within one of the playoff record of 19 held by Philadelphia's Reggie Leach and Edmonton's Jari Kurri.

Sakic carried the puck up the right side as Rhett Warrener dived in vain to stop him in the Florida zone, then went in alone and lifted a short forehand over goalie John Vanbiesbrouck's left arm.

Keane's tying goal came during a delayed penalty after Martin Starka sent Mike Ricci sprawling with a crosscheck in front of the Florida net. Ricci got up in time to raise his leg as a screen while Keane's shot from the top of the left circle eluded Vanbiesbrock.

The Avalanche led 5-1 in shots before Florida went on a power play when Adam Deadmarsh was penalized for hooking at 7:40.

That's when the game turned around temporarily.

Florida swarmed all over the offensive zone and took the next 14 shots on goal. The streak finally ended at 18:17 when Sakic's soft shot from the blue line was stopped easily by Vanbiesbrouck.