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Avalanche finally break through in regulation vs. Canucks

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- The last time the Colorado Avalanche beat the Vancouver Canucks in regulation, their captain was in Major Junior and their best player was a rookie.

It's been so long, in fact, Tiger Woods went from relevant to marginal and back again.

Thanks to a late goal, the Avalanche could celebrate finally beating the Canucks in this decade.

Jan Hejda scored on a slapshot with 7.6 seconds left, and Colorado ended years of futility against the Canucks with a 4-3 win on Saturday.

P.A. Parenteau, Gabriel Landeskog and Cody McLeod also scored for the Avalanche, who hadn't beaten the Canucks in regulation in more than three years.

"It feels great. My first year here we did alright against them, but since then it's been loss after loss after loss," Matt Duchene said. "It feels great to break that dominate streak they had against us."

Vancouver's domination dated back to Oct. 3, 2009, when the Avalanche beat the Canucks 3-0 in Duchene's second NHL game. Saturday was his 260th, and in between the Canucks were 18-0-2 against the Avalanche.

Entering Saturday, Vancouver had won 10 straight against Colorado, including all three this season. But the Canucks couldn't hold onto two third-period leads.

It culminated when Hejda took a shot from the point and beat goalie Cory Schneider on the short side to finally get a regulation win against Vancouver.

"There's not too much time for shots," said Hejda, who got his first goal of the year and just the fourth from a Colorado defenseman this season. "They are doing a great job of blocking shots today. I'm trying to shoot a one-timer."

It capped a tough period for the Canucks, who blew leads of 2-1 and 3-2.

"A disastrous third period all around for us," said Schneider, who had 22 saves. "Colorado stuck with it and they worked hard and forced a lot of turnovers and good chances, but I think as a group that's a game, going into the third with the lead and getting another lead, that we need to hang onto and find a way to win."

Maxim Lapierre, Jannik Hansen and Jason Garrison scored for the Canucks, who had their four-game win streak stopped by the team at the bottom of the NHL standings.

Vancouver is battling for the Northwest Division title and the top-three seed that comes with it. The Canucks lead Minnesota by six points with seven games remaining. The Wild have eight, including Saturday night's game against Columbus.

Colorado, conversely, has stumbled to the finish line in this shortened season. The Avalanche have just four wins in the last five weeks and went from .500 to 14-22-6.

But since goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere publicly chided his teammates after a home loss to Calgary on Monday, the Avalanche are 2-0-1 against playoff-bound teams.

"They had won against Anaheim and played a real solid game against (Los Angeles)," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "Our players knew that. I say it all the time, there are no easy games. It was another one of those nights where you have to be at your best to win, and if you're not you don't win."

The Canucks took responsibility for Saturday after costly turnovers accounted for Colorado's first two goals. Landeskog, the team's 20-year-old captain, scored his ninth of the season when he stole an outlet pass from Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa and beat Schneider just 1:50 into the game to give Colorado a 1-0 lead.

"I assume when I saw the stick it was our guy," Bieksa said. "Obviously you can't make assumptions like that. It's a tough play to give (Schneider) his first shot of the game, breakaway in close. I don't feel too good about that play and it's my fault."

It stayed that way until Lapierre and Hansen scored 2:14 apart early in the second to give the Canucks a 2-1 lead.

Ryan O'Reilly stole the puck from Lapierre and fed McLeod for a tying goal 2:02 into the period. After Garrison scored 1:25 later, Parenteau tied it at 3-3 with his 16th goal with 7:03 remaining.

"It's one of those nights where it's tough to find a couple of lines and a couple of Ds that are making plays with the puck," Vigneault said. "Give them credit, they came hard and were physical with our players. We had so many unforced turnovers that led to Grade A turnovers or goals."

NOTES: Giguere finished with 24 saves. The win was the 250th of his career, tying him with Hall of Famer Johnny Bower for 45th on the all-time NHL wins list. ... Canucks forward Chris Higgins missed his second straight game with a lower body injury. ... The Avalanche announced they will retire former defenseman Adam Foote's No. 52 during the 2013-14 season. His will be the fifth sweater retired in Avalanche history. ... Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov missed his third straight game with a hip injury. He has not played in the team's last four games and six of the last seven after playing in 26 of the first 31. ... Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk was a healthy scratch.
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