Avalanche 4, Canucks 3, SO

It was only fitting that Matt Duchene was the one to put the

Colorado Avalanche back in the playoffs ahead of schedule.

His shootout goal gave the Avs a 4-3 win over the Vancouver

Canucks on Tuesday night, sending them back to the postseason a

year after the franchise’s worst showing since moving to

Denver.

“I was hoping it might come down to me, to have that chance to

finish it,” said Duchene, who leads NHL rookies with 54 points.

“A lot of critics said we’d be 14th, 15th in the west, so now to

clinch a playoff spot feels amazing.”

Craig Anderson stopped 28 shots through overtime and all three

in the shootout as the Avalanche secured a postseason spot that

seemed a stretch for a young team that finished last in the Western

Conference last season

The 19-year-old Duchene made a quick move to his forehand and

lifted a hard shot over a sprawling Roberto Luongo for the only

goal of the shootout, then pumped his fist as teammates raced off

the bench to mob him at center ice.

“Pretty fitting,” first-year coach Joe Sacco said. “He’s the

type of kid that wants the puck, wants to be in those situations,

wants to make a difference. He certainly did on that goal, along

with our goaltender.”

Darcy Tucker, T.J. Galiardi and Paul Stastny scored in

regulation for Colorado, which had lost a season high four

straight, including a key one to ninth-place Calgary, before

rallying to beat San Jose in overtime Sunday.

The Avalanche then ended a four-game road skid by handing the

Canucks their ninth home loss and eliminating the Flames, who lost

to 2-1 San Jose earlier.

“We faced our first adversity after the Olympic break and the

playoffs started early and we weren’t quite ready,” said captain

Adam Foote. “If I’m outside looking in, I’d probably be like

everyone else betting in Vegas we wouldn’t have been there with our

youth. But it was a special team all year.”

Daniel Sedin scored his second goal of the game on a power play

with 4:06 left to tie it, taking feed from twin brother Henrik on a

3 on 2 rush and snapping a far-side shot over the glove.

It was the 107th point of the season for Henrik, who drew both

defenders before dishing off on his backhand, and now leads

Washington’s Alex Ovechkin by one point.

He was more concerned with the Canucks’ form as the playoffs

approach.

“We’ve got to sharpen up,” he said. “For two periods we

weren’t there.”

Mason Raymond also scored, and Roberto Luongo made 29 saves

through overtime for the Canucks, who clinched the Northwest

Division and home-ice advantage as the No. 3 seed in the first

round of the playoffs by beating Minnesota on Sunday.

“It would have been easy for us to go out there and just go

through the motions and for them to get an easy two points,”

Luongo said. “We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.

Both teams were missing key players injured in the previous

game.

The Canucks were without Christian Ehrhoff, who leads their

defensemen in goals (14) and points (43). He sprained his knee

Sunday against Minnesota, but is expected to be back by the

playoffs.

The news was more ominous regarding Colorado forward Peter

Mueller, who sustained a concussion Sunday. Mueller had nine goals

and 20 points in just 15 games since being acquired from Phoenix at

the March 3 trade deadline. He isn’t expected back the rest of the

regular season.

Tucker opened the scoring 6:17 in after Canucks defenseman Alex

Edler gave the puck away to him in the Vancouver end and compounded

the mistake by screening Luongo on Tucker’s low shot from the

faceoff circle. Daniel Sedin tied it with 2:01 left after a strange

bounce off the end boards stranded Anderson and left him with an

empty net, but the Avalanche retook the lead 63 seconds later when

Luongo somehow misplayed Galiardi’s backhand from the slot into his

own net.

Raymond tied it again on a 2 on 1 seven minutes into the second

period, beating Anderson, who became the first goalie in franchise

history to play 70 games.

“You want to have the opportunity to be the hero, said

Anderson. “We realized after our strong start this was a

possibility but I don t think anyone outside our locker room had

any idea what we had inside this room.

Stastny put the Avalanche ahead again on a 2 on 1 feed from

Chris Stewart, who made a saucer pass over diving defenseman Shane

O’Brien for his second assist of the game. Stastny, who also had an

assist to match his career high with 78 points, deked around a

sprawled Luongo before tucking in his 20th goal.

Notes: There is no timetable for Mueller’s return. … Ehrhoff

was replaced by D Shane O’Brien, who was exiled from the team for

six days last week after being late for practice and gaining weight

during the Olympic break. … Canucks C Ryan Johnson is out four to

six weeks after breaking his foot blocking a shot Sunday. RW Steve

Bernier, who missed 17 games after having sports hernia surgery,

took his spot, but the team also called up Matt Pettinger from the

AHL.