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Canucks blank Avs, clinch Northwest

Sunday, 04.12.2009 / 2:03 AM / Game of the Night

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

It wasn't too long ago when people were wondering whether the Vancouver Canucks would even make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

On Saturday afternoon, they claimed the Northwest Division championship.

Roberto Luongo stopped all 22 shots he faced and Henrik Sedin broke a scoreless tie 40 seconds into overtime as the surging Canucks claimed the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference with a 1-0 win against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

It was quite the way for the Canucks to finish their regular season, which saw them go 45-27-10. Vancouver will also enter the postseason riding a three-game winning streak.

"A lot of people thought we wouldn’t be able to accomplish this," Canucks forward Alex Burrows said. "We were 14 or 15 points behind Calgary in January, and nobody probably thought it was possible. But we kept working and got better."

Vancouver locked up the division once the horn sounded at the end of the third period. A regulation loss would have given Calgary an opportunity to secure the crown with a victory against Edmonton on Saturday night. The Flames had a tiebreaker edge over the Canucks.

But the Canucks held Colorado to just four shots in the third period and were able to get the game to overtime. Peter Budaj made 32 saves through regulation for the Avalanche, who will finish last in the West for the first time since the franchise relocated from Quebec in 1995.

"You're always trying to play smart in a 0-0 hockey game," defenseman Willie Mitchell said. "With a division title on the line, you're a little more aware of it. This is a really good feeling."

Sedin scored the winning goal when his shot redirected off the skate of Avs defenseman Scott Hannan and past Budaj. It was his 22nd goal of the season.

"I was throwing it across to Daniel (Sedin) on the other side, and I was just lucky it hit his skate and went in," he said. "It's nice to get the win."

It was the second straight shutout for Luongo and his ninth of the season, a franchise record. He has 47 in the NHL, tying him with San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov for fourth among active players.

"The great thing is this team is playing really well defensively," Luongo said. "It cuts down on the number of big saves I have to make."

Budaj was solid once again, but he was also a hard-luck loser for a second straight game. On Thursday night, he lost a shootout against the Dallas Stars when a trick shot by Mike Ribeiro tricked past the Avs' goaltender.

"You don't want to point fingers at being unlucky," Budaj said. "Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't."

The Canucks were once again forced to play without forward Taylor Pyatt, who missed his fifth straight game after his fiancee, Carly Bragnalo, was killed in a car crash while vacationing with family in Jamaica.

"The situation has been on our minds," Luongo said. "It has been tough."

Meanwhile, Avs forward Ian Laperriere reached a milestone as he skated in his 1,000th NHL game on Saturday. Laperriere made his debut on March 3, 1994 with the St. Louis Blues. He has played for four teams, and spent the last four seasons in Colorado.

"It is meaningful," he said. "If I look back at my career, it's my effort that I'm proudest of … I worked hard so I could play into my 30s, and I'm still playing hard at 35."

Colorado will finish its season on Sunday against St. Louis.

"We gave everything we had and lost," Laperriere said. "Got beaten by an unlucky goal."

Material from wire services was used in this report.








 

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