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Santorelli lifts Canucks past Avalanche

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Canucks went into the second intermission against the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday night with a 1-0 lead and a lot of questions about their ability to hold onto it.

Instead of talking about trying to protect the lead between periods, the Canucks built on it early in the third.

Mike Santorelli set up Ryan Kesler's goal 1:32 into the third period then scored his second goal of the game less than six minutes later to lead the Canucks to a 3-1 win against the Avalanche.

"If you want to be successful in this league, you've got to be able to hold onto leads, and tonight we did it the right way," Santorelli said. "We wanted to come out strong and not look at the time, and that's what we did."

Vancouver had blown five third-period leads in its past seven games at Rogers Arena, including a two-goal lead against the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday before winning in overtime. It was the focus after that game and again after practice Saturday, but the inability to finish games off wasn't talked about at all between periods against Colorado.

"You have to be careful," coach John Tortorella said. "If you talk too much about it, it turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Colorado forward Jamie McGinn scored with 7.1 seconds left to spoil Roberto Luongo's shutout bid.

"If you ask me about the goal, I am going to snap," Luongo, who finished with 28 saves, said with a laugh. "Thank God it wasn't the tying goal. That stuff happens. We'll take the two points."

Vancouver has won four straight for the second time this season, and consecutive games at home for the first time since early October. But after blowing so many leads lately, how they did it was just as important.

"Coming in after the second, we didn't talk about anything, just kept talking about regular things and playing our game," Luongo said. "We didn't talk about playing with the lead, and we scored some big goals."

Kesler scored on an empty-net tap-in 1:32 into the third period after Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped Santorelli's shot from the slot only to have the rebound go straight to Kesler behind him at the side of the goal.

"We didn't want to sit back and hold onto that one-goal lead. We wanted to go after them," said Kesler, who has 15 goals, including five in the past four games. "They seem to all be greasy and you have to go to those areas to get the goals so I'll keep going to those areas."

Six minutes later, Santorelli kept it on a 2-on-1 break with Chris Higgins and wristed a perfect shot over Giguere's blocker.

Giguere, who was back in the Colorado goal after making 28 saves in a 3-2 win against the Calgary Flames on Friday, finished with 18 saves but lost for the first time in eight starts this season.

"These are just stats for you (media) guys to talk about," Giguere said of his 7-0-0 start. "It was nice, but I try to go in there and compete every day, and unfortunately losing is part of the game too. I'm just going to regroup and get ready for the next chance I get to play."

It was also just the second time this season Giguere has played consecutive games ahead of Semyon Varlamov, who gave up all eight goals in a 8-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.

"I honestly felt we played a better game than them, and unfortunately we have nothing to show for the result," coach Patrick Roy said. "But, I mean, Luongo was good. Both goalies were good actually."

Santorelli opened the scoring 5:34 into the first period after Higgins intercepted defenseman Nate Guenin's soft pass behind the Colorado net. Higgins fed out to Santorelli, who was cutting to the crease from the right and made a quick deke in tight to get around Giguere before tucking a backhand into the empty net on the other side.

"What a great play by [Higgins] behind the net causing that turnover and finding me out front, and I just made a move," Santorelli said.

Colorado outshot the Canucks 12-6 in the first period, but Giguere had to make a couple great saves in the final three minutes to keep it close. Luongo answered him early in the second period, denying John Mitchell on a breakaway from the top of the faceoff circle after a giveaway, and got a break when Nick Holden's shot from the top of the faceoff circle hit both posts and stayed out.

There was no break on McGinn's goal. Luongo was close to picking up his third shutout of the season and the 65th of his career, which would have moved him one behind Roy for 14th place on the all-time NHL shutout list. But McGinn's shot went off his right pad, off the post, and in off the back of his skate.

Luongo joked that Roy pulled Giguere with five minutes left because he "didn't want me to catch up to him on the shutout record," but made it clear he was only kidding.

Roy, who is second all time in the NHL with 551 career wins, said it was only a matter of time before Luongo passes him for shutouts, but added, "He has some work to do on wins though."

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