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.