DENVER - Never, ever count out the Vancouver Canucks.
The Northwest Division leaders have shown the ability to come back time after time this season, and they did it again Tuesday night at the PepsiCenter before a stunned crowd of 12,861. The Canucks, who have won an NHL-best 10 games when trailing after two periods, rallied from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits for a 6-4 victory over the Colorado Avalanche in a crucial division showdown.
Jannik Hansen was credited with the decisive goal with 2:08 to play in the third period when the puck glanced off his skate and bounced into the net as he was moving through the crease. Daniel Sedin, who had two assists, added an empty-net goal with 8.8 seconds remaining.
Mikael Samuelsson began the comeback with three goals in the second period - Henrik Sedin assisted on all three -- for his first career hat trick to pull the Canucks within 4-3.
"First of all, we wish we didn't have to come back like this," Samuelsson said after the Canucks defeated the Avalanche for the fourth consecutive time and increased their lead to four points (84-80) over Colorado with 16 regular-season games remaining.
"It takes energy out of you, that's for sure," Samuelsson added. "At the same time, we play for 60 minutes. That's the good thing. We know we can do it. We had a couple of comebacks early in the season, and I think that helps you confidence-wise. I really don't know what's going on, but it's a good thing."
Just as remarkable, Vancouver has gone 8-5-0 in the first 13 games of a brutal 14-game road trip that finally ends Wednesday night against Phoenix.
The loss was a bitter one for the Avalanche -- just their fourth in regulation in 34 games when leading after 40 minutes. Colorado remains in sixth place in the Western Conference, just six points in front of ninth-place Detroit.
"It was a bad game," said Avalanche center Paul Stastny, who was minus-3. "It was a good first period, but after that mental lapses hurt us. It's hard to take and we have to learn from it, and we have to learn fast because we have one day of practice and we get right back at it (Thursday against Florida)."
Alex Burrows' power-play goal at 8:04 of the third period tied the game 4-4, and the Canucks limited the Avalanche to four shots the rest of the way.
In all, the Avalanche was guilty of 13 official giveaways.
"We just needed to cut down on turnovers," defenseman John-Michael Liles said. "We got away from our game."
Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo was disgusted with his game after allowing three first-period goals on 10 shots, but he made a number of superb stops after that and gave his team a chance to climb back into the game.
"That was probably the worst I've ever played in my career," the Vancouver captain said. "That first period was pretty bad. You know what? I'm pretty happy with myself because I battled back. I stayed with it. I could have put my head down and not come out for the second. I came back and I made some saves and the guys obviously came back and scored some big goals.
"At the end of the day, I was real disappointed with myself, but I'm happy with myself for the way I battled back."
Asked what the turning point was for him, Luongo laughed.
"The horn at the end of the first," he said. "Once we got back in the locker room, we said 'just keep playing.' We have the confidence. We've done it before."
Samuelsson backhanded a rebound into a wide-open net at 11:45 of the second period to make it 4-2 and got his third goal at 18:18 from right in front to make it 4-3 after the Avalanche scrambled following a giveaway by Stastny.
Samuelsson, who has six goals in a four-game goal-scoring streak, scored his first goal at 6:40 to make it 3-1. He skated down right wing to whack the rebound of Daniel Sedin's shot behind goalie Craig Anderson.
The Avalanche regained their three-goal lead at 7:16 when Peter Mueller intercepted Mason Raymond's pass in the Vancouver zone, skated in alone on Luongo and whipped the puck into the net.
But it was all downhill for the Avalanche after that.
Rookie Matt Duchene led the Avalanche's three-goal barrage in the first period with two goals and red-hot Chris Stewart connected for the other one.
"They came out good. They were really ready," Samuelsson said. "They have a good team, so we had to battle back."
The Avs, who had been falling behind early in recent games, got goals from Duchene and Stewart 28 seconds apart, and Duchene added a power-play goal with a nifty individual play.
The Avalanche got on the board at 6:17 when Mueller carried the puck behind the net and passed to Duchene for a shot from just outside the right post. Stewart, who had a hat trick Saturday against St. Louis, made it 2-0 when he surprised Luongo with a shot from a steep angle near the right-wing boards that went into the net at 6:45.
After Anderson made a big stop against Samuelsson, Luongo answered by robbing Stastny on a breakaway. But Duchene made it 3-0 on the power play at 13:26 after Stastny carried across the blue line. He passed to Duchene, who weaved through the defense and beat Luongo to the glove side for his sixth two-goal game of the season.