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Avalanche Can't Solve Canucks' Miller

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

There have been plenty of times in recent years that opposing teams seemed like they couldn't buy a goal against Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

On Sunday night in Vancouver, the Avs found out what its like to be on the other side.

The Avs did a lot of good things offensively against the Canucks at Rogers Arena, except get the puck past goalie Ryan Miller, who slid, dove, stretched and got some help from the goalposts to deny nearly every Colorado chance. Matt Duchene finally beat Miller with 41.8 seconds left in regulation, but Vancouver was already well on its way to victory. The Canucks won 5-1.

"It's probably one of the better performances I've seen of a goaltender against us this year," Roy said. "He was really good. He was very solid. He was moving well. He was reading plays well. He was outstanding out there. Outstanding."

Colorado outshot Vancouver 38-29 and won each period in the statistical category: 11-8 in the first, 16-11 in the second and 11-10 in the third.

The Avalanche also had more shot attempts, finishing 64-38 overall.

"He made some great saves," Roy said of the American-born netminder. "There were a lot of chances. The toe save he made on [Erik] Johnson. The breakaway he made on [Carl] Soderberg. I could go on and on. The glove save he made on [Mikhail] Grigorenko. It seemed like it was an easy save, come on, it was a great play by our guys. Those things happen. Varly did this to the other team, and [Miller] did it to us."

Colorado appeared to be the better team in the first period, but Vancouver did a good job of taking advantage of the chances it was given.

Adam Cracknell scored on a nice backhand shot at 8:31, and Daniel Sedin fed Jannik Hansen from behind the net for a quick strike in the slot with 1:14 left in the stanza.

"We're facing a team that we know is very opportunistic, and they pounced on a couple opportunities that we gave them," said Avalanche defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk of the first period. "At the same time, I thought we had some real good looks in the O-zone."

The Avs came out strong in the middle frame, firing 24 pucks at or around the Canucks goal, but they just couldn't find twine. Instead, Vancouver again took advantage, using a late delay-of-game penalty on Semyon Varlamov to tally with five seconds left before the intermission.

"In the second period, I thought we did everything except scoring," Roy said. "We had a lot of chances to get back in that game, and we just couldn't bear down on our chances.

"Like I said [to the team] after the second period, 'I don't have much to say. You guys are playing a good game. We're down three goals, let's keep going. We're playing well, and there is no reason for us to change anything. Just keep putting pucks on the net.'"

Colorado finally beat Miller in the final minute of regulation during a scramble in front of the net, but not before Hansen tallied again and Christopher Tanev recorded the dagger into an empty net earlier in the third period.

The Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Hansen line led the Canucks on offense, with each player finishing with a plus-3 rating. Hansen recorded two goals while Henrik Sedin had four assists and Daniel Sedin three helpers.

But the story of the night was the play of Miller, who denied each opportunity for the Avs to get back into the game.

"When a goalie plays like he did, it's hard to come back," Roy said.

ROY LIKES THE ADDITION OF MATTHIAS

The Avs acquired Shawn Matthias from the Toronto Maple Leafs earlier Sunday, and head coach Patrick Roy envisions the forward playing some key roles down the homestretch of the season.

Shawn Matthias

"I think it is going to help a lot," Roy said after the contest with the Canucks about the addition of Matthias. "I think he's going to bring depth to our lineup. First of all, he's a big man and he's a good skater. He's capable of playing on the penalty killing. He's going to help. He's going to bring a lot of depth to this team, and we're pretty excited about it."

It may take a few days for the Mississauga, Ontario, native to join his new teammates in Colorado as he works on obtaining a U.S. visa from Canada. When he does make it to the Mile High City, Roy said Matthias might play on a line with Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau.

"I think he's a guy that is going to fit well on that line and is going to be able to play against top lines," Roy said before Sunday's game.

The 6-foot-4, 231-pounds Matthias has 148 points (75 goals and 73 assists) in 459 career games, scoring 17 points (six goals and 11 assists) in 51 contests this season with the Maple Leafs. He recorded a career-high 18 goals and 27 points in 78 games last year with Vancouver.

WAGNER BACK IN THE LINEUP

Other than the pre-scheduled start of Semyon Varlamov in goal, the return of forward Chris Wagner was the only lineup change for the Avalanche on Sunday.

Wagner replaced Andreas Martinsen and centered the fourth line with Cody McLeod and Jack Skille.

It was Wagner's first game since Feb. 14 at Buffalo. He was a healthy scratch for the last two games.

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