DENVER (AP) -Alain Vigneault didn't need to look far for his team's success. The Vancouver Canucks coach turned and pointed to the cubicle of goaltender Roberto Luongo.
"Roberto has been our MVP," Vigneault said. "He is our MVP."
Luongo stopped 34 shots and Sami Salo broke a scoreless tie with a third-period power-play goal to help the Vancouver Canucks clinch a playoff spot with a 3-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.
Vigneault counterpart, Joel Quenneville, agreed with Luongo's value to the Canucks.
"Luongo is big for their team and they have a lot of confidence playing a patient game because of him," Quenneville said. "He made big saves and he certainly looked big in the net."
Matt Cooke and Daniel Sedin added empty-net goals for the Canucks.
Luongo posted his fifth shutout and the 32nd of his career. The NHL co-leader in wins with 44 moved to within three of matching Bernie Parent's record of 47 wins set with Philadelphia in 1973-74.
"I was disappointed with my performance last Sunday," said Luongo. "I was more focused tonight and more focused to play better."
Luongo was in net when Vancouver saw a 4-2 lead disappear and eventually lose in a shutout to Colorado in his last start.
Vancouver matched a franchise record with its 46th victory and took a one-point lead over Minnesota in the Northwest Division race.
The loss was critical to Colorado, which fell seven points behind the Flames for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"Our margin of error was minimal going into today's game, now it is no room," Quenneville said. "We basically have to win every game going forward."
Jose Theodore stopped 26 shots in his first start since Feb. 25. Colorado had been 10-0-2 since Feb. 27.
Salo's 13th goal came with the Canucks on a five-on-three power play that lasted a full two minutes. Ken Klee and Joe Sakic were penalized on the same sequence at 1:14 of the third period.
A minute later, Salo took a pass from Henrik Sedin in the deep slot. Salo sent a slap shot through a screen that got past Theodore.
"I saw an opening and we had a good screen on the goaltender," Salo said of his goal. "We were just lucky enough to have a two-man power play."
Cooke and Daniel Sedin's empty-net goals came after Theodore was pulled for the last 1:01.
Luongo was tested in the final period, but helped by the NHL's top-rated penalty unit. The unit killed three power plays in the period and all five in the game.
Vancouver was outshot 12-4 in the scoreless first period. The Canucks didn't have a shot until 9:30 of the period when Trevor Linden fired a wrist shot from the left circle that Theodore gloved.
The Avalanche missed a chance at 5:12 of the first period when Mark Rycroft's backhand hit the crossbar with Luongo at the opposite end of the crease.
Vancouver controlled play in the second period, with a 14-9 shot advantage. Jan Bulis missed an open net 20 seconds into the period.
"We're not out, but obviously we need some help," Sakic said. "We are fighting every game now."
Notes: C Brendan Morrison played in his 506th consecutive game, the longest current active NHL streak. ... Linden played his 1,317th game. ... The win by Vigneault matched him with Pat Quinn (1992-93) for Vancouver's most coaching wins in a season with 46. ... Colorado RW Brett McClean celebrated the arrival of their first child on Monday. ... Sakic had his three-game goal streak and his six-game point streak snapped.