DENVER – It had been more than three years since the Colorado Avalanche managed to defeat the Vancouver Canucks in regulation.
The Avalanche finally accomplished the feat Saturday when Jan Hejda fired a shot from the left point past a screened Cory Schneider with 7.6 seconds remaining in regulation for a 4-3 win at Pepsi Center.
The victory was the Avalanche's first in regulation in 21 games against the Canucks since a 3-2 decision on Oct. 8, 2009. It also snapped a 10-game winless streak (0-8-2) against their Northwest Division rivals since a 4-3 overtime win Jan. 18, 2011.
"It was a nice one, a one-timer, probably one of the nicest I've ever scored," Hejda said of his goal. "A game-winning goal is always nicer than a regular goal, so I'm pretty happy with it. I think we play better against good teams than against bad teams."
The goal was Hejda's first of the season and the fourth by an Avalanche defenseman.
"It's nice to get contributions from the back end on the offensive side," coach Joe Sacco said. "We need more of that. If you look around the League, the defense is starting to chip in more. That's the way the game is played now. You need a secondary wave from your defensemen."
Schneider had posted a 6-0-1 record with a 1.30 goals-against average in seven previous career decisions against the Avalanche.
"I never really saw it," he said of Hejda's shot. "I looked short side early and he wasn't quite stepping into it. I peered on the other side and by that time he had let go on the short side. It was a pretty good screen in front, a pretty quick developing play and all of a sudden it's in the back of the net."
The Avalanche, which began the day 30th in the overall standings, have sandwiched wins against the Anaheim Ducks and Vancouver Canucks around a shootout loss to the Los Angeles Kings since goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere criticized the team's attitude and effort following a 3-1 home loss to the Calgary Flames on Monday.
"Since the dark day?" said Giguere, who made 24 saves against the Canucks. "I'm happy with the way the guys have responded. I think we had a lot more media pressure on us, and pressure isn't a bad thing. We need a way to push ourselves and sometimes it comes in different ways. We need to build a winning attitude, that we're not going to give anything for free, and we don't need to wait for next year to do that. We can start right now, and the last three games are a good example of that. It's been a frustrating year. It's not the year that we were expecting and we only have ourselves to blame for that."
The Avalanche tied the game 3-3 on PA Parenteau's goal with 7:03 to play. Matt Duchene passed into the slot to Parenteau, who managed to one-time the puck past Schneider despite being checked by defenseman Jason Garrison.
"It was nice to be rewarded after being robbed by Schneider a couple times," Parenteau said. "I was tied up, but my stick wasn't and my hands were free. That's how I was able to get it home."
Garrison put the Canucks in front 3-2 at 3:27 of the third period, 85 seconds after the Avalanche tied the game on a goal by Cody McLeod.
Garrison ripped a point shot by Giguere for his first goal in nine games, since he scored against the Avalanche on March 24. McLeod, who had gone 24 games without a goal since Feb. 24 against Anaheim, poked the puck underneath Schneider at 2:02 off a pass from Ryan O'Reilly, who knocked the puck away from Vancouver's Max Lapierre in the corner.
"It was a disastrous third period all around for us," Schneider said. "Colorado stuck with it and they worked hard and forced a lot of turnovers and good chances. But I think as a group that's a game, going into the third with the lead and getting another lead, that we need to hang onto and find a way to win."
The Canucks got goals from Lapierre and Jannik Hansen 2:14 apart early in the second period to take a 2-1 lead.
Lapierre beat Giguere to the short side with a shot from the middle of the right circle at 4:30, and Hansen scored his first goal in 12 games during a scramble in front at 6:44.
Hansen was given the chance to skate on the Canucks' top line with the Sedin twins after being benched for the final 9:21 in Vancouver's 4-1 win on Wednesday against.
"It's one of those nights where it's tough to find a couple of lines and a couple of Ds that are making plays with the puck," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "Give them credit. They came hard and were physical with our players. We had so many unforced turnovers that led to Grade A turnovers or goals.
"This team had just played against Anaheim, they had just played against L.A. and they had won against Anaheim and played a real solid game against L.A. Our players knew that. I say it all the time; there are no easy games. It was another one of those nights where you have to be at your best to win, and if you're not, you don't win."
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog opened the scoring at 1:50 of the first period following a giveaway by Kevin Bieksa -- the Vancouver defenseman passed out of the corner right to Landeskog in the slot.
"You have to be ready for that play," Schneider said. "It's not always an easy start to the game and I'm sure Kevin would like to have that play back. It's hockey, you're going to make plays like that where as soon as it leaves your stick you wish you wouldn't have done it. That's part of the reason I was there, to cover up those mistakes. Landeskog didn't make a mistake."