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Canucks beat Avalanche to remain atop Northwest

by Staff Writer / Colorado Avalanche
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Brendan Morrison scored the go-ahead goal on a breakaway late in the second period, sparking the Vancouver Canucks to a 5-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.

Jarkko Ruutu added a deflection goal 5:25 into the third and Markus Naslund scored his 15th of the season with 5:53 left as the Canucks ended a one-sided losing streak against their Northwest Division rivals.

Since beating Colorado on Oct. 22, Vancouver had been outscored 21-10 in four straight losses to the Avalanche, including a 6-2 loss in Denver on Sunday.

Josh Green and Henrik Sedin also scored, and Alex Auld made 30 saves as the Canucks improved to 11-1 at home -- the only loss was to Colorado -- and moved three points ahead of the Avalanche atop the division.

Joe Sakic and Alex Tanguay scored for Colorado, which had its three-game winning streak snapped despite 39 saves from David Aebischer, who started after winning in Edmonton the night before.

After losing two straight last weekend and giving up the first goal in 10 of their last 12 games, the Canucks held a players-only meeting Tuesday.

It didn't seem to help early on. For the second straight game against the Canucks, the Avalanche scored on their first shot. It took 11 seconds Sunday. This time it was 1:52 in before Sami Salo deflected Sakic's wrist shot into his own net.

Unlike Sunday, when Colorado added three more in the first period, the Canucks responded with the next two, matching their total from the first period of all four losses to the Avalanche.

Green, recalled from Manitoba of the American Hockey League for the fifth time in November earlier in the day, tied it on a breakaway at 11:22. Sedin gave the Canucks the lead 1:30 later, jamming a four-on-three power-play rebound past Aebischer.

The Canucks outshot Colorado 14-3 over the final 14 minutes of the first and 13-6 in the second, but Aebischer kept it close, robbing Trevor Linden with a desperate, sprawling save on a breakaway and stuffing Todd Bertuzzi and Sedin in tight.

That allowed Tanguay to tie it 2-all when Auld kicked Rob Blake's long shot right to him alone at the other side of the net for a tap-in.

Aebsicher came up big again as the Avalanche killed off consecutive five-on-three power plays after Tanguay's goal, but was left alone for the third time in the game when Karlis Skrastins and Brett Clark collided trying to play Naslund's long pass.

Morrison picked up the loose puck at the blue line and beat Aebischer with a deke to his backhand, giving him a goal in two straight games after going 12 without one.

Game notes
After playing six times in the first two months, the Canucks and Avalanche won't meet again until Jan. 28 in Denver. ... Colorado has played 11 of its 26 games against Vancouver and Edmonton, but has yet to play a game against Minnesota, another division rival. ... Vancouver plays in Edmonton on Thursday.

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