DENVER — What looked to be another crucial comeback victory ended up as a regulation loss. And the sequence that led to the late game-winning goal frustrated the Avalanche.

The Avs surrendered the first three goals to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and couldn’t recover until the third period. And when they did, they crawled back from a three-goal deficit before Matthew Tkachuk scored the game-winner with 3:30 remaining on the power play in Colorado’s 5-4 loss at Ball Arena.

With 5:20 remaining in regulation, Avs forward Mikko Rantanen was called for interference on a play where his shoulder made contact with Panthers forward Nick Cousins, who rocked his head back upon contact. Rantanen didn’t comment on his call but was visibly upset with a missed call earlier on the same shift. He felt his linemate J.T. Compher should’ve drawn a high-sticking penalty call.

“Did you see that high stick before? Did you see that?” Rantanen said.

“Can’t be a more clear high stick. We got called for the exact same call two games ago. Like I’m not saying anything about the refs. I’m just saying it’s a high stick. That’s all I’m saying.”

Listen to “I’m Just Saying It’s a High Stick” on Spreaker.

Avs coach Jared Bednar felt the same way, but also added that Cousins embellished.

“Compher takes one in the face in the neutral zone, they let it go. 30 seconds later, we’re getting called for one on one that I think a guy embellishes a little bit,” he said. “I’m just thinking let the players decide it.”

Colorado entered the third period trailing 4-1 but got goals from Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon and J.T. Compher in a 5:38 stretch to even the score. Before Compher knotted things up, Artturi Lehkonen capitalized on a rebound but the goal was called back following a successful offside challenge from the Panthers.

The Avs were relentless on the attack in the final frame and showed signs of being the offensive juggernaut they’ve been for years. Despite the comeback and the exciting third period, the team knows the problem starts with their inability to put together a complete game. Florida scored the first three goals and outshot Colorado 17-4 in the second period where the Avalanche were trailing by multiple goals the entire way.

“The message has been, recently, that we gotta play a full 60,” Bednar said. “We gotta expect to play a full 60 to win. It’s a tough league.”

Colorado (20-16-3) has hobbled its way through the past month, dealing with injuries, overplaying its top guys, struggling on the penalty kill and suffering from an abnormal amount of defensive turnovers.

All three of Florida’s first-period goals were the direct result of turnovers. The Panthers were also 2-for-2 on the power play.

“We weren’t good enough on the defensive side of things and it kind of leaked into our penalty kill tonight,” Bednar said.

The loss was the Avs’ sixth in seven games and fifth in regulation. The Avalanche are 4-5-1 in their last 10, winning all four of their games in overtime or the shootout. It’s been 11 games since the Avalanche last won a game in regulation. Their 12 regulation wins are 25th in the NHL. They were second in the NHL a year ago with 46.

Colorado seemed to have a number of good looks and an opportunity to make it a game in the second period. With less than a minute remaining in the opening frame, Cale Makar looked off a shot to set up Kurtis MacDermid, who sent it toward the net for a successful deflection goal from veteran forward Andrew Cogliano.

Cogliano’s sixth of the season gave the Avs life before the break. And despite getting outplayed and outshot 17-4 in the second, Colorado had ample opportunity to make it a one-goal game. First, defenseman Samuel Girard was unable to tap home a rebound bouncing puck on an open net on the Avs’ first of two power plays in the period. Then, Evan Rodrigues also failed to capitalize on his open opportunity when the Avalanche were back on the man advantage.

Rantanen also had a one-on-one with the goalie and shot it high, and the Avs also had a 3-on-1 where Rantanen dropped it to MacKinnon but it was stopped by goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

And after all of that, Tkachuk’s first of two with 52 seconds remaining in the period stood as the only goal.

“The ones that frustrated me is, I felt like in the first period, and at times in the second and third, we miss the net on some of our best chances of the night,” Bednar said. “We didn’t even force them to make a save.”

Alexandar Georgiev made his 12th consecutive start for the Avalanche and had a tough start before settling in. Colorado at one point was outshooting the Panthers 8-4 but trailed 2-0. Georgiev made a number of big saves in the second when it was 3-1 before Tkachuk’s 21st of the season finally broke him. He stopped 16-of-17 second-period shots.

Georgiev is finally getting some help. Backup goalie Pavel Francouz, who hadn’t dressed since before the holiday break, returned as the backup, and will likely split duties with Colorado’s starter to give him some rest. Georgiev is just two starts away from his career high (32) after starting 30 of the first 39 games to open the season.

Colorado has 10 games before the All-Star break and bye week that starts at the end of the month.