The Vancouver Canucks moved closer to an early summer.
Defenseman Tyson Barrie scored 55 seconds into overtime and the
Avalanche beat Vancouver 3-2 on Thursday night, dealing the Canucks'
playoff chances a serious blow. They are five points behind Phoenix
for the last wild card spot with seven games to play.
"We still think we have a chance," said right winger Zack Kassian,
who had a goal in the loss. "Some of you might think we're crazy but
we still think we have a chance. None of us are going to quit."
Center Matt Duchene had a goal and an assist and left winger Gabriel
Landeskog also scored for Colorado, which won two straight.
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 29 saves to record his 36th win of
the season for the Avalanche, who need one point Saturday to reach
their first playoffs since 2009-10.
"We know we're close to clinching and we want to keep trying to push
and trying to finish ahead of Chicago," Barrie said.
The Avalanche came into Thursday with a chance to officially clinch
a playoff berth, but the Coyotes' shootout win in New Jersey spoiled
any celebration. Still, they moved to within one point of Chicago
for second place in the Central Division, with Colorado having a
game in hand. The Blackhawks were blanked by the Boston Bruins on
"That's huge for us," Duchene said. "We want to finish as high as
Colorado has 98 points, its most since recording 100 in the 2003-04
season. The team's 46 wins is the most since the Avalanche won 52 in
Barrie scored the game winner, his 10th of the season, when he
redirected a pass from Duchene past goaltender Eddie Lack. It was
his third overtime goal of the season, tying the franchise
single-season mark set by David Jones three years ago.
"I don't know what it is," Barrie said. "I must be lucky."
Lack finished with 25 saves for the Canucks, who had their
three-game winning streak snapped.
Defenseman Yannick Weber also scored for Vancouver.
The Canucks picked up three big wins in a week to stay in the hunt
for one of the last wild-card spots. Since going 5-16-3 to start
January, Vancouver played steadier and finishes the season with six
of its last seven at home.
"We've been positive right on through. Just talking to them, we're
fine," Vancouver coach John Tortorella said. "We're fine in our
room; we're going to keep on playing."
The Canucks were already missing center Henrik Sedin (leg injury)
when defenseman Kevin Bieksa went to the dressing room late in the
second period after taking a big hit from Landeskog along the
boards. He returned in the third period but only logged 2:35 of ice
time in two shifts.
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"Not sure. He's just too sore," Tortorella said when asked how his
defenseman is feeling. "We'll know more tomorrow."
Play got a little chippy at times. Duchene nearly went to blows with
Vancouver center Ryan Kesler at one point, and later left winger
Jamie McGinn got in Kesler's face.
Duchene said his scuffle with Kesler was a long time coming.
"The last four years every time I skate behind the net after a
whistle (Kesler) comes and hits me. So I hit him back and he didn't
like it very much," Duchene said. "Fifth year in the league I'm not
going to back down. That's his game, he's a great hockey player,
he's a big two-way guy and he has a little bit of an edge to him. I
don't think you're going to see us fight any time soon, but I'm not
going to back down."
Things did not start well for Colorado, which took three penalties
in the first period. The Canucks took advantage on the second power
play when Weber scored midway through the frame.
The Avalanche were able to tie it on Duchene's 23rd goal at 15:40 of
the first, and Landeskog gave them a 2-1 lead with his 24th at 8:58
of the second.
The Canucks got even when Kassian scored with 1:22 left before the
Colorado failed to score on two power play chances in the third.
NOTES: Avalanche D Erik Johnson was in the lineup after missing the
morning skate with flu-like symptoms. He was questionable for the
game but felt well enough to play. ... Vancouver C Henrik Sedin
missed his second straight game with a left leg injury suffered in
Sunday's win over Buffalo. Sedin did not make the Canucks' two-game
road trip that started Wednesday in Minnesota. ... Avalanche C John
Mitchell missed his fourth straight game with a back injury.
Mitchell has made progress and could play Saturday against San Jose.
... Thursday was the completion of the 16th back-to-back set for the
Canucks. They have one more, which closes out the regular season.
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