VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP)—The Avalanche gave up on making the playoffs a long time ago, but Colorado rookie T.J. Galiardi still has postseason aspirations.
They just happen to be for another team.
With his parents in the stands, the Calgary native scored twice to lead the Avalanche to a surprising 4-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night. In addition to snapping Colorado’s eight-game losing streak, the win also helped Galiardi’s hometown Flames in their playoff race.
“My parents were here and my dad is a big Calgary fan so he was saying to get the win for them because obviously Vancouver is on their tail, so it’s kind of funny it worked out that way,” Galiardi said. “But we’re more focused on ourselves in here, and we want to finish the year off hard.”
The Canucks are trying to finish the year atop the Northwest Division. But coming off a 5-3 loss in Edmonton Saturday night, and playing at home for just the second time in the last nine games, they couldn’t take advantage of an injury-riddled team in last place in the Western Conference.
Pavol Demitra snapped Budaj’s shutout bid with 4:38 left, but by then it was too late as the Canucks lost three straight games for the first time since an eight-game losing skid at the end of January. They followed that by going 20-5-1 in February and March, but are 0-2-1 in April.
Vancouver remained tied with Calgary atop the Northwest Division, and fell three points behind fourth-place Chicago in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Flames, who have played one fewer game, host Los Angeles on Monday before traveling to Vancouver for a showdown Tuesday.
“It’s certainly not what we expected,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. “In everybody’s mind this was a game that would put us one step closer to a championship in our division and possibly home ice and we didn’t play very well. They were the better team on the ice tonight.”
The game started with an emotional tribute and moment of silence for the fiancee of Canucks forward Taylor Pyatt, Carly Bragnalo, who was killed in a car crash Friday while vacationing with family in Jamaica. Pyatt missed his second game and has been given an indefinite leave of absence by the team.
Several Vancouver players have pledged to win for the missing teammate, but gave a sellout crowd of 18,630 little reason to get loud after the moment of silence.
“We didn’t look like we had a lot of jump or a lot of legs tonight, for whatever reason,” Vigneault said. “You might think we’ve played 10 games in 10 different cities and that might have taken it’s toll, and I know our guys are a very tight group and their wives and girlfriends are very tight and obviously the Taylor situation is a little bit challenging. But I know we’re stronger than what we showed tonight, even though it’s 10 different games in 10 different cities and a very personal loss to one of our family members.”
Galiardi opened the scoring on a delayed penalty 7:32 into the first, one-timing a hard shot form the slot over Roberto Luongo’s glove after Canucks defensemen Shane O’Brien and Kevin Bieksa collided along the side boards. Galiardi made it 4-0 with 7:56 left, beating Luongo from a sharp angle for his third NHL goal—all coming against the Canucks—in his seventh career game.
“I thought I had some chances against other teams, but just lucky enough to get a couple tonight on great plays by (linemates Darcy) Tucker and Hejduk,” Galiardi said. “I’d obviously you’ve got to be grateful to score on a guy like Luongo two times, so I’m pretty happy about that right now.”
They Canucks weren’t happy after being outshot 26-21 by a team in the midst of the longest winless streak (0-7-1) since the franchise moved to Colorado in 1995. The Avalanche did get forward Wojtek Wolski back after missing three games to illness, and he set up Guite’s goal. But Colorado was still missing 10 regulars to injury, including four defensemen and four top-six forwards.
Vancouver only managed five shots in the first period—none before Guite made it 2-0 7:44 into the second with a quick shot from inside the left faceoff circle that went between the legs of both defenseman Willie Mitchell and Luongo.
Hejduk made it 3-0 5 minutes into the third after a bad giveaway by Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler in front of Luongo, who finished with 22 saves.
“There’s no excuses tonight,” Luongo said. “It was a game we needed to have and we all need to give a bit more, starting with myself. We’re not a team that’s going to make excuses. There’s no reason to use that as an excuse. If anything, you want to play hockey for Taylor and get a win for the guy.”
D Aaron MacKenzie became the 10th Colorado player to make his NHL debut this season, the most in a single season in Avalanche history. … It was the Canucks’ first regulation loss at home since Jan. 28, an 11-0-2 streak that included a franchise-record 11-straight wins at GM Place. … Canucks C Henrik Sedin had a seven-game point streak snapped at five goals and nine assists. … Colorado captain Joe Sakic took the morning skate, but isn’t sure he’ll play again after missing all but 15 games because of back and hand injuries.