PIC OF THE GAME
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -With so much hype over the impending return of Peter Forsberg, it's easy to forget the Colorado Avalanche already got a pretty good player back last week.
Joe Sakic reminded everyone on Wednesday night.
Playing his third game after missing 38 with a sports hernia, the Colorado captain scored the tying goal with 14.7 seconds left. He added another in the shootout, setting the stage for Marek Svatos' winning goal and lifting the Avalanche to a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks.
"Obviously Joe means everything to the organization, and having him return and have that jump and quickness he demonstrated over the last couple of games gets everybody excited around here," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He has upgraded our skill level and experience as well."
The Avalanche needed both after Alexandre Burrows
scored on a wild scramble with 1:45 left to give the Canucks a 2-1 lead.
Sakic knocked in a rebound in the closing seconds after Jose Theodore was pulled for an extra attacker.
"It was scramble for sure," Sakic said of the final two minutes. "Unfortunately, we gave up the one goal and could have easily lost that game, so it was nice to get back rolling. Any time you can come from behind and find a way to get two points, it's a big lift for your hockey club."
Burrows dove to poke the puck in at the side of the net but it was swept out by teammate Henrik Sedin
as bodies piled up in front of a sprawled Theodore. Play continued for more than 30 seconds, but a replay following the next whistle showed the puck barely crossed the goal line.
The time was put back on the clock, and Sakic needed it. He fought off the check of Willie Mitchell and lifted a backhand over Roberto Luongo
as he fell.
"We had about six chances to get it out," said Luongo, who made 24 saves through overtime but only one in the shootout. "Either we shot it off our own guys or we didn't get it out. Next thing you know there's a shot from the point and Sakic's all alone on the side."
"I was able to get the first save but he was able to chip it over me on the second one. It's unacceptable, it's inexcusable, and that should never happen, especially in an important game like that. We just pissed away two points."
Many teammates expressed the same frustration as Luongo, as they believed their efforts warranted the extra point.
“It’s definitely a tough one [to lose],” said Captain Markus Naslund. “I thought we worked hard all game and got that lead at the end of the third but couldn’t keep it. I guess we can try to learn form those last mistakes and keep moving ahead. I think the effort is there, and we’re playing a pretty strong team game right now. Unfortunately we couldn’t win tonight.”
The point the Canucks got left them one ahead of the Avalanche, who moved into a tie with Nashville for eighth place in the Western Conference. With three more games against each other down the stretch a playoff spot may rest upon the results of these Northwest affairs. This fact is not lost upon players in either dressing room.
"We showed them they got to come through us to get into the playoffs, we got the one point tonight but obviously we always want to get two," said Canuck forward Mason Raymond who turned in another stellar performance tonight.
Raymond scored the other goal for Vancouver, which had its season-high winning streak snapped at four. They have points in 10 of 11 (6-1-4) and have played two fewer games than Nashville and Colorado.
In lieu of the outcome, Coach Alain Vigneualt complimented his team claiming that the work ethic and desire was present, even though the result was not.
“Our guys are competitors they want to win and they don’t look for excuses. Every time they step on the ice they want the same thing, they want to win, and that’s why we compete hard," said Vigneualt. "Everybody that was on the ice tried real hard I can’t fault them on their effort.”
Tonight's affair also marked the first game newly acquired Canuck Matt Pettinger played with the Vancouver club. After being dealt for Matt Cooke at yesterday's trade deadline, Pettinger was briefed on the Canuck system this morning and then thrown into action.
Stopped 29 of 31 shots and recorded a blank sheet in the shootout backing his team to victory.
| Roberto Luongo
Came up with several big-time saves to keep his team in the game, stopping 24 of 26.
Scored with 15 seconds left to tie the game and netted his shootout opportunity.
"It was good to get the first one out of the way as now I can kind of get use to new things and get to know the guys better that will allow me to start feeling more comfortable on the ice," said Pettinger.
"The hardest thing [to adapt to] is the system [a team plays], there were so many different things I was use to in Washington and I came in to go over it all this morning and then tried to implement it in the game. [Getting familiar with] those kind of things that are going to take a little time"
Andrew Brunette also scored and Theodore made 29 saves as Colorado completed its second third-period comeback in as many nights since bringing back free agent Forsberg and acquiring defensemen Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei in trades. Foote joined the team during the first period of Tuesday's overtime win in Calgary, and Salei made his debut in Vancouver, recording an assist on Sakic's tying goal.
Forsberg, who skated with the team for the first time Wednesday morning, said he isn't sure when he will make his on-ice return with the Avalanche.
"Every game we've injected a new player," said Quenneville, who has also gotten top forwards Paul Stastny (appendectomy) and Ryan Smyth (broken ankle) back in the past two weeks. "We've just got to keep building. Peter should be back soon and that should give us more life."