DENVER – With 36 games to play and sitting 11 points behind, it isn't realistic for the Colorado Avalanche to have visions of overtaking the Vancouver Canucks for first place in the Northwest Division.
Even so, the Avalanche was feeling pretty good after finally knocking off the Canucks for the first time in five meetings this season, skating to a 4-3 overtime win Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center on a power-play goal by David Jones at 2:52 of the extra period.
Jones cashed in the rebound of Tomas Fleischmann's shot with seven seconds left on a four-on-three advantage with Henrik Sedin in the penalty box for interfering with John-Michael Liles.
"Flash did a great job of taking the puck to the net," said Jones, who also scored in the second period. "He put a rebound shot off (goalie Roberto) Luongo's pad and it kind of sat there for me."
The Avalanche rallied from 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 deficits, tied the game for the final time on Milan Hejduk's power-play goal with 41.6 seconds remaining in the second period, and killed off a Paul Stastny interference penalty that began with 7:28 remaining in the third.
"We're chasing them right now," said Liles, who had a strong game with a goal and two assists. "It's going to be a tough task to try and catch them by the end of the year, but this is a good start."
The Canucks won the previous four meetings this year with the Avalanche – one in overtime – and eight of the previous nine.
"We have to believe we can beat them," Jones said. "They're a real good team and we have to give them a lot of credit, but at the end of the day in playoffs, that's the kind of team we have to beat in order to advance. It's good to get the confidence up and get a win tonight."
Said Avalanche coach Joe Sacco: "There's lots of hockey left, but we wanted to beat these guys. I know we have them one more time. We hadn't beaten them this year, so I think for our guys inside the room, certainly they'll feel good about themselves."
Vancouver completed a five-game road trip with a 2-2-1 record and will play eight of its next 10 games at home, where it owns a 15-3-3 mark.
"The way we've been playing, you would expect more out of ourselves than a .500 road trip," said Luongo, who made 26 saves. "That being said, we battled and we’re going to go home now and take care of some business."
The Avalanche began the game in a 2-for-30 slump on power plays but converted three of five chances against a Canucks team that killed 13 of 14 penalties in the previous five head-to-head contests.
"We weren't as sharp as a five-man unit, myself included," Luongo said. "I think we could have been better. It's tough to kill a 4-on-3. We almost had it, but we fell a bit short."
Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson, whose play has fallen off from a year ago, made 40 saves in winning back-to-back starts for the first time in a month. He made 32 saves Friday in the Avalanche's 4-1 win in Minnesota.
"It's real good not only for Craig but for our whole team," Sacco said. "He was solid all game long and he certainly gave us a chance to win. That's two games in a row now. He's working hard in practice and he seems to be getting back into form."
Anderson has faced 40-plus shots three times this season and won all three.
"It's just a number, I guess," he said. "It always feels good when you win. We played them tight all year and for us to get the job done and get the two points lifts our spirits. When we play well, when we play our game, we're pretty tough to beat."
The Canucks took what proved to be their final lead at 18:15 of the second period. Rookie Sergei Shirokov, playing in his first game of the season, stickhandled in the slot and nudged the puck between Anderson's pads for his first NHL goal.
Hejduk got that one back for the Avalanche 63 seconds later.
"We battled back," Liles said. "That's a tough team to play. We got some timely goals, which was huge. You have to fight for every inch out there."
Ryan Kesler's power-play goal at 10:15 of the second period put the Canucks in front 2-1. He tipped Christian Ehrhoff's point shot into the net 36 seconds after Avalanche defenseman Ryan O'Byrne went to the penalty box for interference.
Forty seconds later, Colorado's Kevin Porter was awarded a penalty shot after he was hooked by Kevin Bieksa while on a breakaway. But Luongo deflected Porter's shot over the net.
The Avalanche tied the game 2-2 on Jones' fluke goal at 12:46. Hejduk fired a shot that ricocheted off the end boards and bounced off the post into the slot. Jones knocked the puck into an empty net.
Anderson had to make two big saves during an Avalanche power play early in the period. He stopped Jannik Hansen after a Porter turnover and made a save on a clean breakaway by Mason Raymond.
The teams exchanged power-play goals in the opening period, with Alex Edler striking first for Vancouver at 2:43 and Liles answering for Colorado at 15:41 for his first goal in 19 games, since Dec. 7 at Florida.
"Yeah, it had been a while," Liles said. "It seemed like I was getting shots, but it didn't seem like I was getting the chances that I wanted."
1 - 0 VAN
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 VAN
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 VAN
3 - 3 Tie
4 - 3 COL
Power Play Stats
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