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Canucks get 3 PPGs in 3-1 win against Avs

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER - The showdown for first place in the Northwest Division wasn't much of a contest.

The Vancouver Canucks scored a power-play goal in each period and rookie goalie Cory Schneider stopped 33 shots Thursday night in a 3-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. The Canucks (7-3-2) shut down the Avalanche (6-5-1), which began the night averaging an NHL-best 3.46 goals per game, to run their winning streak to five games.

It was a night the Avalanche can't forget fast enough.

"Most nights, win or lose, we put up a good effort," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "Tonight was a night I think we probably just need to throw the game in a garbage can and get ready for the next one."

Schneider, making his third start of the season, lost his shutout with 3:08 remaining in the third period. David Van Der Gulik scored his first NHL goal during a delayed penalty while the teams scrambled in front.

"(A shutout) is in the back of your mind," Schneider said. "At the end of the day, it's not the most important thing. I'd rather give up one goal and get the win. It's not a big deal, but it'd be nice to get that first one out of the way."

Raffi Torres, Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler scored power-play goals against an Avalanche team that has allowed at least one power-play goal in six consecutive games, 10 overall in that stretch.

"Our power play did what it's supposed to do and our PK did a good job, too," Kesler said. "That why we won the game -- specialty teams."

Vancouver killed off both of Colorado's power plays and has killed 16 in a row in the past six games.

Schneider, who gave starter Roberto Luongo the night off, has been better than good. The 24-year-old, a first-round pick (No. 26) in the 2004 Entry Draft, owns a 3-0-0 record with a 0.90 goals-against average and .969 save percentage.

"I've been working hard every day in practice and keeping my conditioning up," said Schneider, who hadn't played since Oct. 22 when he made 23 saves in a 5-1 win against Minnesota. "I've won all three games, and that's what's important. I want to be a guy that they can count on winning games and not go in and hope you win. The stats are what they are, but that's more of a reflection of how my team has played in front of me."

Torres, who has scored five times in a three-game goal-scoring streak, made it 3-0 at 4:03 of the third period when he deflected Aaron Rome's shot behind goalie Peter Budaj, who faced 36 shots.

"Their goalie played very solid," Kesler said. "We probably could have had six or seven goals. He stood on his head."

Sedin made it 2-0 at 3:33 of the second period. Christian Ehrhoff launched a shot from the right point that caromed off the end boards. The puck came to Sedin at the left side of the net and he flipped it home.

The Canucks outshot the Avalanche 18-8 in the first period and grabbed a 1-0 lead on Kesler's goal at 3:14. Daniel Sedin passed to Kesler for an unscreened shot that beat Budaj as he skated into the right faceoff circle.

"Danny did a good job of finding me," Kesler said. "They were overplaying Henrik and Danny, so I was wide open and I had an open look."

While the Avs have had problems killing penalties in recent games, Sacco wasn't happy about his team's play in even-strength situations Thursday and felt compelled to call a timeout just 5:03 into the opening period.

"I thought they played harder than we did," Sacco said. "They wanted the puck more than we did. When you do that, you usually end up winning games. It was like that 5-on-5 and 5-on-4.

"You're going to lose games in the course of a season, but I didn't like the way we lost this game. I didn't think we were ready to start on time. For such an important game, we didn't have the usual energy that we have in our game. I called the timeout pretty early there just to wake the guys up. We didn't play to our identity tonight."

Sacco also was unhappy with center Matt Duchene, who took just three shifts in the second period and logged a season-low 14:43 in ice time. Duchene had as many giveaways, two, as shots on goal.

"He has to look after the puck better than he has," Sacco said. "He's turning the puck over too much. That gets contagious. It gets infectious. It's starting to become a trend."

Already down two regular defensemen with Kyle Cumiskey and Adam Foote sidelined with concussions, the Avalanche scratched Ryan Wilson because of an undisclosed leg injury.

Of Colorado's six healthy defensemen, Jonas Holos, David Liffiton and Kevin Shattenkirk have played a combined 15 NHL games. Shattenkirk made his NHL debut Thursday.

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