– Welcome back, Mason Raymond
The Vancouver Canucks
forward made a triumphant return to the ice Sunday night with the decisive goal in a 2-1 win over the slumping Colorado Avalanche
at the Pepsi Center.
Mason, who missed the previous 10 games with a broken thumb, scored at 3:11 of the third period to give the Canucks a two-goal lead and some insurance for goalie Roberto Luongo
, who finished with 31 saves.
"It's good to be back," Raymond said. "I'm happy to be back and to be able to contribute and help the team continue on this high streak."
The Canucks, who have won all four meetings with the Avalanche this season, stretched their winning streak to five games and have gone 10-0-2 since a 3-2 loss to St. Louis on Dec. 5.
Vancouver increased its lead over second-place Colorado to eight points in the Northwest Division and tied Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for the most points (53) in the NHL.
The Avalanche have gone 1-4-1 in six games following a six-game winning streak and are winless (0-3-1) in the past four home games.
"We're one of the best teams," Luongo said. "Obviously it's only the regular season, but we're playing in all types of games and finding ways to win. Come playoff time we know it's going to get gritty, so we'll be preparing for what's to come."
Luongo faced a desperate Avalanche comeback attempt late in the third period. Paul Stastny
scored with 6:25 left for his 15th goal of the season and 300th career point, and the Avalanche buzzed around Luongo's net in the final minute after goalie Craig Anderson (27 saves) left the ice for a sixth attacker.
"The high altitude was kicking in there," Luongo said. "I was glad the game was over. I don't know how much longer I could have lasted. They were throwing everything at the net and we were doing a good job tying up sticks so they couldn’t get to the rebounds.
"You know they're going to shoot from everywhere and they had guys crowding the net. You just want to seal the ice as much as you can and make sure you're not giving anything down low or anything going through. I was covering the ice as much as I could."
Luongo's only regret was that he wasn't able to prevent Stastny from lifting a rebound into the net. Luongo reached high in an attempt to make the save, but a video review showed his glove was just across the goal line when he batted the puck away.
"Aw, it was close," Luongo said, laughing. "I don't know if you can allow a goal after an effort like that. I guess it was in."
Raymond, who is wearing a splint to protect his right thumb, scored what proved to be his fourth winning goal of the season by knocking in a loose puck as the Avalanche scrambled in a futile attempt to clear the zone.
Raymond had three shots on goal in 9:17 in ice time while skating at left wing on a fourth line with Alexandre Bolduc and Tanner Glass, a trio that accounted for both goals and two assists.
"Alex had a great game, along with Tanner Glass," Raymond said. "They worked hard and got it in front and I just tucked in the rebound. I felt good. I didn't log a whole ton of minutes. To come to the Mile High City, it's a little bit different, but my legs felt pretty good."
Avalanche center Matt Duchene
was on the ice when Raymond scored and said the goal was the result of a "tough" bounce.
"It's frustrating," Duchene said. "We ring it around and it hits the glass and comes back out, hits a shin pad and goes to (Raymond) for a wide-open shot. That's just really tough to swallow when you lose that way."
Bolduc gave the Canucks a 1-0 lead during a fast-paced first period in which both teams had good scoring chances. He scored on a two-on-one rush from the left circle at 18:15, three seconds after the Canucks finished killing off a hooking penalty to Kevin Bieksa
When Luongo made a big save against Kevin Porter
, the rebound bounced to Glass to spring the outmanned attack. Glass fed Bolduc, who skated down the left side and fired the puck into the far corner of Anderson's net.
The goal was the first in 36 career NHL games for Bolduc, and it was a good omen for the Canucks, who are now 20-1-2 when they open the scoring.
The Canucks also limited the Avalanche to a total of five shots on five power plays. Colorado is in a 2-for-21 slump with the man advantage covering six games.
"It didn't give us a lot of momentum," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "We had a couple of chances here and there and we had some opportunities at a part of the game where we needed to bear down. We haven't gotten the job with it the last while. It has to be a little better. I am going to have to look at it. It's not clicking right now."