Canucks beat Avs to clinch playoff spot

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The Associated Press
Thursday, March 17, 2011; 12:54 AM

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Alex Burrows tied it midway through the third period, Henrik Sedin put Vancouver ahead 2:18 later and the Canucks came from behind to clinch a playoff spot with a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.

Henrik added a second goal into an empty net with 1:14 left as the NHL-leading Canucks won their seventh straight game to become the first team to secure a playoff berth.

Maxim Lapierre also scored and rookie Cory Schneider made 27 saves to help Vancouver wrap up the Northwest Division, and with it a top-three playoff seeding in the Western Conference.

Daniel Sedin added two assists to extend his lead in the NHL scoring race with 92 points. He set up Burrows atop the crease to jam the puck in midway through the period and made a blind drop pass to twin brother Henrik, who snapped the winning goal through a screen and goalie Brian Elliott.

Erik Johnson and Matt Duchene scored goals 1:27 apart in the first period as Colorado lost its ninth straight game (0-8-1), and now has just one win in the last 20 (1-17-2).

The Avalanche got top center Paul Stastny back after missing the last game with a hurt back, and puck-moving defenseman Jean-Michael Liles returned after sitting out two games with a leg injury. But they spent most of the second half of the game relying on Elliott, who finished with 36 saves.

Despite that, Elliott was unable to secure his first win in six appearances in the Colorado crease since being acquired from Ottawa for goalie Craig Anderson on Feb. 18, falling to 0-5-1.

Elliott was at his best as the Avalanche was outshot 15-5 in the second period, allowing only Lapierre s goal and making a couple of big saves on one-time chances for Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres. He sprawled across to rob Christian Ehrhoff on a backdoor one-timer 2:28 into the third. But he had little chance on the final two goals after the Canucks rallied quickly after Colorado captain Adam Foote left the game limping from a Ryan Kesler shot off the foot.

The Canucks lost Malhotra early in the second period after being hit in the head by the puck. Malhotra dropped to the ice leaving a trail of blood, but skated quickly to the medical room on his own.

Liles assisted on Johnson s power play goal midway through the first period, but most of the credit belonged to Ryan O'Reilly and David Jones for a double screen that prevented Schneider from seeing the glove-side point shot. Duchene ended a 10-game goal drought a couple shifts later with a centering pass to Mark Oliver that went in off the skate of Canucks defenseman Sami Salo.

NOTES: Vancouver C Henrik Sedin played his 800th NHL game, and Alain Vigneault coached his 400th with the Canucks. D Sami Salo played despite leaving Monday's game after taking a hard slap shot off the left elbow, so the Canucks sent D Yann Sauve back to Manitoba of the AHL one day after calling him up. Colorado RW Milan Hejduk missed a second straight game with a shoulder injury but is with the team and could return on the final two games of the four-game trip to play what will be his 900th career game. Liles' leg injury meant no Avalanche player appeared in all 82 games for a second straight season. St. Louis was the last NHL team that happened to, in 2003-04 and 2005-06.


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