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Game 80: Off the Mark

by Daniel Fung / Vancouver Canucks
For what was supposed to be a mean-nothing contest, Thursday's tilt between the Canucks and Avalanche was a surprisingly entertaining affair. In the end, however, the Canucks still ended up with a result that has become all-too-familiar this season.

Paul Stastny scored twice for the Avs while Tyson Barrie notched the eventual game-winner with just 7:30 remaining in regulation to help the visitors escape Rogers Arena with a 4-2 win over the Canucks.

John Mitchell added an empty net goal for the Avalanche, who moved into a tie for spot in the Central Division with the win and kept alive their hopes of potentially finishing as the top seed in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs.

Henrik Sedin and David Booth had the goals for the Canucks, who found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard for the fifth time in their last six outings.

Vancouver came into Thursday's game with nothing to play for after being officially eliminated from playoff contention following Monday's loss to the Anaheim Ducks but neither they or the Avs looked particularly interested in competing in the early going of the contest.

The action, and the emotion, would pick up after Henrik Sedin opened the scoring at 13:52 of the opening frame after having a Dan Hamhuis slap shot ricochet off him and past Avs' netminder Semyon Varlamov for his first goal in nine outings.

The Avs would respond the following shift by bringing some physicality into what had been a rather dull affair up to that point with Patrick Bordeleau taking a healthy run at Canucks' rookie defenceman Frank Corrado. They'd counterpunch on the scoreboard as well with Stastny tallying his first of the night on a breakaway with 81 seconds remaining in the opening period.

Stastny would give the Avs their first lead at 5:21 of the third period but the Canucks would respond less than two minutes later courtesy of a David Booth marker after the oft-criticized winger managed to corral a puck off the end boards and beat Varlalmov over the right shoulder with a perfectly placed shot.

Barrie would get the lead back for the Avs not long after with the teams skating four-on-four by taking a feed from Jamie McGinn, bursting up the right wing to set up a 2-on-1 rush, and then firing a wrist shot past Jacob Markstrom, who was making his first start as a Canuck.

Markstrom would finish the night with 24 saves on 27 shots in the loss while Varlamov turned aside 38 of 40 shots for the Avs in the win.

The Canucks will play their final road game of the season on Saturday when they visit Rexall Place to battle the Edmonton Oilers in what is expected to by Ryan Smyth's final NHL game.

Daniel Sedin's assist on Henrik's game-opening goal was the 498th helper of his NHL career... Eddie Lack's run of 19 consecutive starts came to an end on Thursday. The streak tied the Canucks' record for most consecutive starts by a rookie goaltender set back in the 1995.96 by Corey Hirsch... Jason Garrison, Zac Dalpe, Jordan Schroeder and Michael Zalewski were healthy scratches for the Canucks. The latter could make his NHL debut either on Saturday in Edmonton or Sunday against the Flames... Brad Richardson and Tom Sestito were the only Canucks who did not manage a shot on Thursday... The Avalanche tied a club record for most wins in a single season with their 52nd victory tonight. The record was set back in 2000.01. They went on to capture the Stanley Cup that year.

IRON DEFICIENCY: With Jason Garrison sitting out as a healthy scratch on Thursday, it means that no Canuck player this season will appear in all 82 regular season games. To find the last time that no Canuck appeared in all 82 regular season games for the team, you'd have to go all the way back to the 1996.97 season. That season, coincidentally, was the last year that the Canucks were captained by Trevor Linden, who the team announced as their new President of Hockey Operations on Wednesday.

BEATING THE BOSS: Semyon Varlamov set a new Avalanche franchise record for most wins by a goaltender in a single season on Thursday by notching his 41st victory to surpass the record previously set by his current head coach, Patrick Roy, back in 2000.01. Varlamov currently all NHL netminders in wins and has two more than his closest competitor, Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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