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Colorado Avalanche 4, Vancouver Canucks 2 FINAL @NHLdotcom

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- If this is how Peter Forsberg plays while recuperating, imagine how good he'll be when he's fully healthy.

Playing his fourth game since missing 19 with a groin injury, Forsberg set up the first three Colorado goals, including Milan Hejduk's go-ahead score with 7:44 left, in the Avalanche's 4-2 victory Friday night over the Vancouver Canucks.

"I don't think it was a great game for me," Forsberg said. "I think I can do better but at least it's a step in the right direction. There's still a ways to go but I'm feeling better at least."

Forsberg, last season's NHL MVP, had just one point in his previous three games.

"I knew it was going to take some time," he said. "As long as I can get in shape, I'm going to get better and better."

Joe Sakic scored on a two-on-one break 31/2 minutes after Hejduk's goal to help the Avalanche move within four points of Vancouver for the top spot in the Northwest Division.

Alex Tanguay and Rob Blake also scored, and David Aebischer made 22 saves for Colorado, which has played two fewer games than Vancouver.

The Avalanche trailed the Canucks by 13 points at this time last year before passing them on the final day of the regular season to win their ninth straight division title.

"This year, we have to make sure we have to start a little earlier," said Tanguay, who added two assists. "We put ourselves behind the 8-ball last year and we were a little bit late getting going. Maybe it cost us in the playoffs because we were a little bit tired."

Markus Naslund and Brad May scored for the Canucks, who failed to record at least one point for just the third time in 13 games.

"We were in the box too much," Naslund said after the Avalanche converted two of six power play chances. "You know when they get five-on-three they're probably going to score."

Hejduk's winner came with the Canucks were playing short-handed after goalie Dan Cloutier took a delay of game penalty for knocking the net off its mooring. Hejduk cruised into the slot, took Forsberg's pass from behind the net, and whistled a shot over Cloutier's glove.

Cloutier tipped his hat to Hejduk's shot, but was less accommodating toward the call.

"I'll just get in trouble if I say what I want to say," Cloutier said after making 29 saves, who said that was the first such call against him. "Never, especially in a tight game like that. There was good flow to the game, and next thing you know ... I'm not going to say any more."

Naslund opened the scoring on the power play with 31.8 seconds left in the first, but Colorado tied it 1:55 into the second period on a two-man advantage after the Canucks, already playing down a man, were whistled for too many men on the ice.

It only took Colorado's fourth-ranked power play 35 seconds to capitalize as Blake cruised into the high slot and one-timed Forsberg's pass from behind the net past Cloutier.

"We'll take his OK if that's how he's going to be," Blake said of Forsberg. "You can see he's getting it back. He does so many things out there."

Tanguay was credited with the go-ahead goal at 8:31 after Forsberg walked out from behind the net untouched and slipped a backhand through a screen in front. The shot bounced off a couple of legs and trickled over the goal line.

"It went off somebody, I don't know if it was me or not," Tanguay said.

It could have been a lot worse as the Avalanche outshot Vancouver 19-5 in the second. Cloutier made a blocker save off Karlis Skrastins on a breakaway midway through the period and stuffed Sakic on a breakaway with seconds left.

"They're so talented and we gave them too many chances," Cloutier said.

May tied it 2:10 into the third period after Jiri Slegr's point shot bounced off May and Skrastins as May drove hard to the net. May, who failed to score in his first 34 games with the Canucks, tapped the puck in after it landed near the goal line.

May, a healthy scratch Monday for Vancouver's 3-2 win at Colorado, has two goals and an assist in his last three games.

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