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Canucks take Northwest Division lead by beating Avalanche

The SportsXchange

DENVER -- After surviving one of the most taxing weeks of the season, the Vancouver Canucks measured their success in ice cubes.

"You go in our dressing room right now and you just count the number of ice bags," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said after Vancouver continued its dominance of the Colorado Avalanche with a 3-2 victory Sunday night at Pepsi Center. "It's just phenomenal the way the guys paid the price in this stretch of five games in seven nights.

"They did everything they were supposed to do to give themselves a chance to win. They blocked shots. They took hits to make plays. That's why we've got tons of ice bags right now."

Vancouver extended its winning streak to four games and completed a perfect three-game trip to move two points ahead of the Minnesota Wild for the Northwest Division lead.

Mason Raymond scored the go-ahead goal for the second time in two games.

With his teammates sacrificing their bodies in front of him, Cory Schneider continued his strong play in goal, stopping 26 to help Vancouver beat Colorado for the ninth straight time. Vancouver is 17-0-2 in the past 19 meetings dating to Nov. 1, 2009.

"Sometimes it's just a bounce here and there that can change the course of a game," Schneider said. "Nineteen games in a row (with a point), there's got to be some luck in there."

Colorado certainly had a couple of tough breaks Sunday night.

Jamie McGinn hit the left post with the game tied late in the first period, and a slow finger by the clock operator might have cost the Avs precious power-play time as they made a push in the game's final minutes.

P.A. Parenteau pulled Colorado within a goal when he scored at the end of a two-man advantage with 2:31 remaining. Because the score officially was counted after the two-man advantage expired, the remainder of Chris Higgins' penalty for hooking was cleared from the board.

"There was a full second left on the clock (when Parenteau scored on the two-man advantage)," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "That cannot happen in our building. Points are at a premium right now. We get another 49 seconds on that (second) power play and you never know what can happen. Obviously that's a big mistake."

The Avalanche pulled Giguere with about a minute to play but could not prevent Schneider from winning his fourth straight start. Schneider, who has stopped 111 of 117 shots over that span, helped Vancouver improve to 11-1-6 in games decided by one goal.

"Sometimes as a goalie, when you know you don't have a huge margin for error, it makes you tighten up a little bit and play that much better," Schneider said. "But it doesn't happen without your teammates in front of you blocking a lot of shots and keeping their speed outside and not letting them get to the middle too much."

One day after scoring the only goal for Vancouver in Sunday's 1-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings, Raymond broke a 1-1 tie 3:13 into the second period when he raced up the left wing and beat Colorado goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere with a wrist shot.

Alexander Burrows added what proved to be the game-winning goal when he beat Giguere from just outside the right crease at 14:29 of the second.

Giguere, highly critical of his team's effort and intensity following Saturday's 5-2 loss at Dallas, stopped 27 shots. Colorado is last in the Western Conference standings, two points behind Calgary.

"We had a fairly good effort," Giguere said. "They (the Canucks) are a good team, but at this time right now, we need wins. A good effort is not enough. We need more from everybody, myself included.

"We're going to have to find a way to get out of it. It's inside this room. We have the power to do something about it. It's the players. It's not the coaches, it's not the system. It's us that can decide whether we want to win or lose."

The Canucks entered the game tied with Buffalo for the league's most anemic power play, but they broke through with a man-advantage in the first period.

With Avalanche defenseman Shane O'Brien in the penalty box for interference, Vancouver needed only 11 seconds to capitalize. Jason Garrison's shot from the slot slipped through traffic and past Giguere at 5:18, giving Vancouver its second power-play goal in the past 16 games (2-for-45).

Colorado answered four minutes later when Jamie McGinn scored on a 2-on-1 rush with Parenteau at 9:18.

NOTES: Colorado forward Paul Stastny suffered a foot injury in the first period and did not return. ... Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog was back in the lineup after sitting out Saturday's game against Dallas with a torso injury. The second-year center has missed 12 games due to injury. ... Already banged up on the offensive front, the Canucks were without forward Dale Weise, who suffered a shoulder injury Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings. ... Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler completed the two-game suspension he received for charging into Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith behind the net on Thursday. ... The Avs, who won the Stanley Cup in 1996 and 2001, celebrated "Trophy Night." Fans at Pepsi Center were able to pose for pictures with the Stanley Cup and the Hart, Conn Smythe, Vezina and Art Ross trophies. ... Colorado surrendered the first goal for the 22nd time in 31 games. ... Parenteau recorded his 30th and 31st points of the season on his 30th birthday.

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