VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) Reto Berra waited a long time for another chance to start in the NHL.
He finally got one – and a win, too.
Berra made 33 saves, and Gabriel Landeskog and Alex Tanguay each had a goal and an assist to lead the Colorado Avalanche past the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Thursday night.
Berra, who hadn’t won in the NHL since Nov. 6 and hadn’t started since Nov. 25, was rarely tested by the Canucks, who sit just two ahead of Los Angeles for second in the Pacific Division after the Kings defeated the New York Islanders earlier Thursday.
”I just wanted to prove to myself and the whole team and everybody,” Berra said, ”that I can just play in this league.”
Jarome Iginla also scored and Ryan O’Reilly added two assists as Colorado snapped a three-game losing streak. John Mitchell added a late empty-net goal.
”We are desperate, we know where the standings are and we would have to win out to give ourselves a chance,” Iginla said. ”But guys came into this game and we talked and said just try to win this game. Don’t think about the big picture or what are the odds, just enjoy this game.”
Yannick Weber scored his third goal in as many games for Vancouver, which had won three in a row, but came out flat before rebounding in the third period with 18 shots.
Eddie Lack stopped 34 shots in taking the loss.
”Bottom line, we didn’t play well enough,” Lack said. ”I can’t really point to why. The locker room and everything felt good before. I felt like we were ready … and then we weren’t.”
Despite losing to the Oilers in Edmonton the previous night, the Avalanche dominated play in the first period, carrying an 18-5 shot edge through 20 minutes, and kept that pressure up in the second.
”It’s unacceptable. We knew how important this game was,” Canucks defenseman Luca Sbisa said. ”Every game going down the stretch is going to be like a playoff game. Not showing up tonight is not acceptable. It’s pretty much like our `B’ team showed up.”
Iginla opened the scoring at the end of a dominant shift at 3:23, tipping home Landeskog’s shot after the Colorado captain wheeled around the Canucks’ zone. The 37-year-old Iginla’s 26th goal of the season moved him into a tie with Montreal Canadiens great Jean Beliveau for 40th on the all-time points list.
The Canucks, who wore their retro Vancouver Millionaires jerseys in honor of the 100th anniversary of that team’s Stanley Cup victory, then went down 2-0 after an embarrassing gaffe by Chris Higgins.
The Canucks forward turned the puck over as the last man, and Landeskog moved in on Lack, who made a great glove save, only to see Tanguay bat home a rebound off the end boards moments later at 10:17 for his 22nd.
The Avalanche put the game completely out of reach on the power play, with Landeskog finishing off a tic-tac-toe passing play with Tanguay and O’Reilly at 12:56 for what was also his 22nd of the season.
Weber got one back for the Canucks just 15 seconds into the third on a man-advantage with his ninth goal on a hard shot off the rush.
Mitchell then added his ninth of the season into an empty net with a minute to go.
”This team has showed enough character and perseverance that we are not going to quit,” Landeskog said. ”It doesn’t matter where we are in the standings. We play for pride and we play for each other and we play for the crest on our jersey.”
NOTES: The Canucks conclude a three-game homestand Saturday against the Dallas Stars. … The Avalanche host the Buffalo Sabres the same night. … O’Reilly extended his points streak to six games (four goals, seven assists). … Weber has five points (three goals, two assists) over the last four games.