DENVER (AP) - Hockey fans in Denver will remember this as the week big, bad Todd Bertuzzi came to town. They might also remember it as the week the Colorado Avalanche showed they could be a contender in the rebuilt NHL.
For the second straight game, the boos rained down on Bertuzzi and the Vancouver Canucks. And for the second straight game, the Avalanche walked away winners, this time courtesy of an Ian Laperriere breakaway for a 4-3 overtime victory Saturday night.
``For a guy like me who doesn't score often, it was a great feeling,'' Laperriere said of his fourth goal of the season.
His game-winner came at 1:55 of overtime, when the puck came loose after a scrum along the boards near the red line. Laperriere found himself skating free, one-on-one against goalie Alex Auld.
``When a guy is coming in like that, he has so many options,'' Auld said.
Laperriere beat Auld with a wrist shot, and afterward, the Avs mobbed him to celebrate a sweep of two emotion-filled games against Bertuzzi and the Canucks, their newest, biggest rivals.
``Oh yeah, that's huge,'' Laperriere said. ``To lose this game, it would have meant that last game didn't mean anything.''
These were Bertuzzi's first two games in Denver since he broke Avalanche forward Steve Moore's neck in 2004 during a game in Vancouver in one of the ugliest episodes in NHL history.
Like Thursday in Colorado's 6-2 victory, Bertuzzi was booed relentlessly - every time he came onto the ice or got near the puck - and especially when he skated in unhindered on his way to an assist that tied it at 1 in the first.
The Canucks forward didn't speak to reporters after the game.
Coach Marc Crawford said Bertuzzi played better in this one than Thursday, when he looked passive.
``He was stronger with the puck and took it to the net a little bit better,'' Crawford said. ``He and the whole team was better and more assertive.''
Not good enough to win, though.
And the Avalanche got the best kind of revenge they could have hoped for against Bertuzzi and the Canucks - two wins that gave them the kind of boost they've been looking for after big-time struggles to start the season.
Colorado, rebuilt like many teams in the wake of the new collective bargaining agreement, blew a pair of three-goal leads at home in the first month and found themselves being booed by their own fans, as they fell into fourth place, eight points behind Vancouver.
They took solace in the fact that they had the highest goals-per-game average. They got some defense and good goaltending to go with it against the Canucks and now, things are looking up.
``I think tonight may have been the most consistent we played from start to finish,'' coach Joel Quenneville said. ``Even though we trailed late in the third, the guys pushed.''
Two minutes into the third, Avs defenseman Patrice Brisebois took the puck on what looked like a routine play behind his own net. He passed it behind him - but to Canucks forward Daniel Sedin, who passed to his wide-open brother, Henrik, in front. Henrik went from forehand, to backhand and back to forehand again, easily fooling David Aebischer (22 saves) to make it 3-2.
About 14 minutes later, Alex Tanguay slipped a backhand past Auld to tie it and set up overtime.
Auld (23 saves) relieved starting goalie Dan Cloutier for the second time in two games. The first was because the Canucks trailed big early. This time, it was because Cloutier got clocked after allowing the night's first goal to Andrew Brunette.
Brunette got tangled up with Vancouver defenseman Nolan Baumgartner and, as Brunette was scoring, he slammed headfirst into the goal post, knocking the net off its moorings and leaving Cloutier dazed. The Vancouver goalie was undergoing evaluation late Saturday night, and the Canucks didn't offer any details.
Although Bertuzzi was the focal point, the game also offered a chance for Brad May - a bit player in the Moore-Bertuzzi affair - to possibly get some closure.
May was the Canucks player who suggested a bounty should be put on Moore's head in the leadup to Bertuzzi's big hit as retribution for a hit Moore put on Canucks star Markus Naslund. Understandably, Avs fans were upset when Colorado signed May in the offseason.
But early season boos turned to cheers when he squared off with Lee Goren of the Canucks early in the first period in a fight that looked as choreographed as a Broadway musical.
After about 20 seconds of shaking their fists at each other - the linesmen doing nothing to intercede - May landed a couple decent shots, then wrested Goren to the ice. When that bit of theater was over, May went to the box being cheered wildly.
Notes: The Canucks fell to 0-2 in overtime this season and are on their first losing streak of the year. ... Avalanche D Rob Blake scored his first goal of the season, making it 2-1 on a 5-on-3 in the second period.
|Andrew Brunette (2) ASST: Marek Svatos (6), Pierre Turgeon (7)|
1 - 0 COL
|Matt Cooke (3) ASST: Todd Bertuzzi (8)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Brendan Morrison (3) ASST: Markus Naslund (7), Richard Park (3)|
2 - 1 VAN
|PPG - Rob Blake (1) ASST: Joe Sakic (7), John-Michael Liles (10)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Henrik Sedin (4) ASST: Daniel Sedin (5)|
3 - 2 VAN
|Alex Tanguay (3) ASST: Andrew Brunette (7), Karlis Skrastins (3)|
3 - 3 Tie
|Ian Laperriere (4) ASST: Patrice Brisebois (3), Steve Konowalchuk (3)|
4 - 3 COL
|Brad May Fighting (maj) against Lee Goren|
|Lee Goren Fighting (maj) against Brad May|
|Matt Cooke Tripping|
|Marek Svatos Hooking against Matt Cooke|
|Mattias Ohlund Hooking against Milan Hejduk|
|Sami Salo Hi-sticking against Ian Laperriere|
|Mattias Ohlund Hi-sticking against John-Michael Liles|
|Mattias Ohlund Hi-sticking against John-Michael Liles|
|Ryan Kesler Delaying Game-Puck over glass|
|Mattias Ohlund Hooking against Alex Tanguay|
|Marek Svatos Interference on goalkeeper against Alex Auld|
|Markus Naslund Hooking against Marek Svatos|
|Andrew Brunette Holding the stick against Henrik Sedin|