VANCOUVER -- Reunited after a couple of games apart and a few more in which they struggled, the Vancouver Canucks' top line had a chat before the game on Thursday.
Alexandre Burrows and Daniel and Henrik Sedin talked about not trying to force the issue offensively, about taking care of their defensive responsibilities first, and letting the scoring chances come to them at the other end.
Against the Colorado Avalanche it usually does.
Burrows scored the opening goal early and set up Daniel Sedin's game-winner with 8:28 left to lead Vancouver to a 4-1 victory. Henrik Sedin and Chris Higgins added empty-net goals, and the top line finished with six points as the Canucks improved to 18-0-2 against Colorado during the past 3 1/2 years.
"We had a talk before the game," said Henrik, who also assisted on Burrows' goal and won the faceoff and set the screen on Daniel's goal. "With the injuries we had, we tried to forced things a little too much. We know our team needs goals and we tried to get those goals the bad way and that never works in this league. Tonight we played better defense, used our D-men in the offensive zone and were able to spread them apart a little more. It was a better game."
It wasn't that way for the entire game.
After jumping out to a 1-0 lead an 8-1 shot advantage the first nine minutes, the Canucks were being outshot 21-7 when Colorado's Matt Duchene tied it 4:02 into the third period. But the top line put the Canucks back in front off an offensive-zone faceoff that went from the point down to Burrows in the left corner and quickly into the high slot to Daniel Sedin for a quick wrist shot through Henrik's screen beat Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov between the legs.
"We got the first goal a little too easy, made a lot of plays, thought the game was going to be easier than it was," Henrik said. "They got a power play and took over the game, and momentum is hard to get back. They came hard at us."
If not for Cory Schneider, the Avalanche would have tied the game a lot sooner.
Schneider made the best of his 32 saves in the second half of a first period that ended with 10 straight shots by Colorado, turning aside point-blank opportunities for Jamie McGinn and PA Parenteau, and robbing Milan Hejduk alone in tight.
"Give them credit, they had every excuse to roll over tonight," Schneider said. "[They] played last night, and have had a tough go of it."
Schneider has allowed just six goals during a six-game winning streak that put the Canucks two points ahead of the Minnesota Wild atop the Northwest Division. He even got an assist on Henrik's empty net goal with 1:24 left to play. Before the streak, Schneider had one win in five games and watched Roberto Luongo start four straight, but he used that time to tighten up his game.
"Just a little more confident in tight, not trying to reach or do too much or over extend myself," he said. "Just trusting my positioning and my size and letting pucks come to me instead of trying to go get them and that's when they start squeaking through. They had a lot of good chances in tight aground the net tonight, but when you play big and play tight it's hard to get through."
Varlamov finished with 16 saves for the Avalanche, who have lost four straight, eight of nine, and are 2-12-3 on the road this season.
Despite the ongoing struggles, coach Joe Sacco wasn't upset with the effort.
"It doesn't make it pleasing because we didn't get any points but certainly with the stretch we've had, there's a lot of positives to build on our game," he said. "We didn't give up many chances after the first few minutes, we started to control some territory and had some quality chances. The first period we could have had two or three goals but their goalie played very well. Schneider was very good."
Upset after falling behind 2-0 and being dominated in the first period of a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames the night before, the Avalanche were down 1-0 early against the Canucks after some pretty passing from the Sedins. A point shot was blocked in the high slot, but bounced to Daniel. He spun into a blind backhand pass across the ice to Henrik, who one-touched it back the other way, stranding Varlamov and leaving Burrows with an empty net. It was the second goal in seven games for Burrows and snapped a skid that saw the Sedins record one assist combined in the past four games.
"The team puts a lot of emphasis on us to score and bring offense but if that's the only thing we think about we are not going to get there," Burrows said of his pre-game talk with the Sedins. "Sometimes it's better to let the other team comes to us a little more and make them turn it over and go the other way and use our skills and reads to make plays and score some goals."
They were perhaps guilty of thinking those goals might come too easy against Colorado. After a Burrows holding penalty, the Avalanche recorded the final 10 shots of the period, finishing with a 32-12 shot advantage over the final 51 minutes.
"A lot of positives tonight for sure," said Parenteau, who finally helped tie it with a nice pass from behind the net to an open Duchene in the slot. "I thought we played a pretty good road game against a really good home team. But we have to find ways. It could be the sign of a young team I don't know what it is."
Colorado had a great chance to defeat Vancouver in regulation for the first time in a long time on the power play a few minutes later. But Schneider turned aside Erik Johnson alone in the slot, and Daniel Sedin restored the lead two minutes later, giving the Canucks 10 straight wins against the Avalanche.
"I thought tonight they kind of got lucky there to take that 2-1 lead, but we have to build on something, not much positive right now around this team, we have to find ways to get wins," Parenteau said. "Most encouraging: I would say, this is the best game we've played on the road for sure in about two months."
It just wasn't enough to end a much longer slump against the Canucks.
|Alexandre Burrows (9) ASST: Henrik Sedin (22), Daniel Sedin (19)|
1 - 0 VAN
|Matt Duchene (13) ASST: Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (20), Jan Hejda (9)|
1 - 1 Tie
|Daniel Sedin (10) ASST: Alexandre Burrows (10), Dan Hamhuis (14)|
2 - 1 VAN
|EN - Henrik Sedin (9) ASST: Cory Schneider (1)|
3 - 1 VAN
|EN - Chris Higgins (8) ASST: NONE|
4 - 1 VAN
|Power Play %||66.7%||11.1%|
|% on Road||0.0%||0.0%|
|% at Home||66.7%||25.0%|
|Alexandre Burrows Holding against Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau|
|Steven Pinizzotto Tripping against Tyson Barrie|