DENVER (AP) - The Canucks showed much more fight than they did in a 4-1 loss at Chicago Sunday, but the end the result was still the same.
John-Michael Liles scored a power-play goal in the third period on a shot that deflected off Matt Pettinger’s leg and over Roberto Luongo to give the Avalanche 2-1 win Tuesday night.
An engaged Vancouver side had rallied from a 1-0 deficit as Ryan Shannon slipped a Sami Salo rebound behind Jose Theodore on a second-period power play, but Vancouver failed to muster a second – despite a few glorious chances.
Markus Naslund snapped a wrist shot off Theodore’s blocker from the top of the crease with under a second remaining and Luongo on the bench, but the Canucks’ hopes faded as the puck fluttered high and wide.
“We battled hard and came on strong at the end,” said Shannon, who has goals in two of his last three games. “We had a couple of good chances there with a pulled goalie and the puck on our stick in the final seconds, but couldn’t find the trigger.”
Despite a spirited effort in Colorado, the Canucks have now dropped two straight and are winless in four games.
“There’s not much time for moral victories with the playoffs coming,” said Shannon, “but we can take some positives from tonight. We had a couple of lines clicking.”
The loss drops the Canucks two points out of a playoff spot as they trail the eighth-place Nashville Predators, who beat Edmonton Tuesday night.
"Our guys are squeezing their sticks a little bit on offense," Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said. "It's not going in for us right now. Our guys are good hockey players and they are in a funk right now. We have to keep working."
Paul Stastny had the only other goal while Andrew Brunette had two assists. Theodore finished with 26 saves as the Avalanche climbed into seventh spot in the West with their fourth consecutive victory.
They Avalanche are just three points back of the division lead, and despite losing both Ryan Smyth and Marek Svatos, were buoyed by a returning teammate Tuesday.
Peter Forsberg played his first NHL game since signing with the Avalanche a week ago. He didn’t factor into the scoring, but he did create a buzz on a line with Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk, and mixed it up a little bit with Alex Burrows.
Forsberg showed some rust in his return, coughing up a few dangerous pucks, but overall, adjusted well.
Four shots and the game-winner on a third-period power play.
had the other goal for the Avs and was 79 percent in the circle.
Jose had 26 saves including a devastating blocker stop in the final second off Naslund.
"I thought he was very effective, very dangerous," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's fun to watch."
Quenneville didn't plan on playing Forsberg for nearly 20 minutes, but he just looked too good on the ice to limit his time.
"I asked him about the halfway mark how he was feeling and he said he was feeling good," Quenneville said.
"Of course you want to get a goal or an assist, but I'm just happy we won the game," said Forsberg, who has only gone through one practice and one skate around with the team since signing a one-year deal last week. "That's all that matters now."
The Avalanche are 4-0 since signing Forsberg and acquiring defensemen Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei just before the trade deadline.
"It's our biggest win of the year," Quenneville said following the 2-1 win over the division-rival Canucks. "We've got a little momentum going."
Not to be overshadowed in the numerous ovations for Forsberg by the fans was the play of Jose Theodore, who won his fourth straight game, his longest streak of the season.
The Avalanche goalie was momentarily stunned midway through the second period when Pettinger accidentally kneed him in the back of the head as Theodore tried to make a save.
Theodore stayed down on the ice for several minutes, before popping back up and returning to the net.
"I kind of blacked out a little bit," Theodore said. "I was a little wobbly. When I got up, everything was good."
The Avalanche opened the scoring midway through the first period when a Jordan Leopold spun a Vancouver turnover back up ice setting up a 3-on-2. Wolski dropped a puck to Stastny who walked in on Luongo uncontested and beat the Canucks keeper over the glove.
The Canucks killed four Colorado power plays through two periods before getting one of their own. Shannon made the Avalanche pay picking the rebound of s Salo point shot off the end boards and snapping it behind Theodore.
Despite a handful of chances, the Canucks couldn’t build on the momentum and fell behind for good when Liles took advantage of a Henrik Sedin hooking call early in the third by skipping a puck off Pettinger and through Luongo for a 2-1 lead.
"It felt good," said Liles, whose shot bounced into the net off the skate of Pettinger. "The most important thing is the win. Everybody played a solid game."
Though he finished with just three shots, and even on the night, Forsberg was the centre of attention Tuesday at the Pepsi Center.
"I was just happy I was out there," Forsberg said. "I felt OK, not bad, not good."
The Canucks gave Forsberg high marks in his first game back.
"He looked good," said Henrik Sedin, who's from the same town in Sweden as Forsberg. "It was fun to see him play again." Even more fun for Sakic to be on the same line as him.
"He's such a smart hockey player and he makes everyone better," Sakic said. "He's very easy to play with."
After the game, Forsberg said his foot was all right and his conditioning level was better than he anticipated.
"It's been a long time since I played a real game," said Forsberg, who had three shots on goal. "It's going to be a real struggle here in the beginning, the first couple of games. I hope people understand that."
Notes: The Avalanche sold 1,400 additional tickets after Forsberg announced he would play. ... Avalanche F Cody McLeod became the first rookie in Colorado history to top 100 minutes in penalties during a season after scrapping with Rick Rypien off the face-off to start the second period... Henrik Sedin had his 52nd assist on Shannon's goal.
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