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Canucks climb back to .500 after 3-2 win over Avs

Vancouver Canucks' Troy Stecher swats the puck out of the air with his hand during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday January 2, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER – As a young goalie with dreams of playing in the NHL, Ryan Miller grew up idolizing two legends of American hockey.

Now his name sits right alongside John Vanbiesbrouck and Tom Barrasso.

Miller made 24 saves, including a key stop in the dying seconds, for the 350th victory of his career as the Vancouver Canucks defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Monday.

The 36-year-old joins Vanbiesbrouck, who won 374 games, and Barrasso’s mark of 369 as the only U.S.-born goalies to reach 350 wins.

“It was something I had kind of identified that would be exciting to be a part of,” Miller said of the milestone. “I’ve been waiting a little longer than I thought.

“It feels pretty good. You play a lot of hockey to reach that point.”

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Sven Baertschi scored twice for Vancouver (18-18-3), while Bo Horvat had the other goal as the Canucks won a fourth straight game for the first time since opening the season a perfect 4-0-0. Henrik Sedin added two assists, while Daniel Sedin picked up the 600th assist of his career on the winner.

After Baertschi scored his second of the night and 10th of the season with a power-play goal on a rebound with 3:37 left in the third, Miller held the fort as the Avalanche pushed late. Loui Eriksson turned the puck over at his own blue line, forcing Miller to make a great stop on Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog in tight moments before the final buzzer.

“I try not to relax. They’re going to take the chance at the line and they got their break,” said Miller, the 21st goalie in NHL history to get to 350 wins. “I just tried to be patient.”

With the victory, the Canucks got back to .500 for the first time since Oct. 29 and improved to 6-2-1 over their last nine.

“We talked about each guy being five per cent better,” said Daniel Sedin. “That’s the difference in this league from winning and losing. I think guys are really buying in right now.”

Mikko Rantanen and Tyson Barrie replied for Colorado (12-24-1), which sits last in the overall standings. Calvin Pickard stopped 21 shots as the Avalanche suffered a fourth straight loss, and their ninth defeat in the last 10 outings.

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Down 2-1 in the third, Barrie tied things up with 8:18 left with his third of the season and first in 19 games on a shot from the point that flew into the top corner through traffic before Vancouver won it late.

“I thought we played pretty decent,” said Pickard. “We just need to find a way to get to overtime at that point and find a way to get a point and then go for two. It’s tough to lose in regulation again.”

The Canucks snapped a 1-1 tie with 1:45 left in the second period moments after an Avalanche penalty expired when Baertschi took a feed from Brandon Sutter and ripped his ninth off the post and in past Pickard. Vancouver buzzed around the Colorado zone for nearly 90 seconds before Baertschi, who has six goals and five assists in 10 games since being a healthy scratch on Dec. 11, finally broke through.

“I’ve been able to get on the scoresheet,” said Baertschi. “But I’m more excited about how well we’ve been playing.”

Vancouver came close to opening the scoring on another power play early in the period, but Troy Stecher hit the post before Pickard, who started a fifth consecutive game with Semyon Varlamov still sidelined with a groin problem, made consecutive saves on Baertschi and Sutter.

The Canucks finally got on the board at 4:48 when Horvat scored his team-leading 11th goal. Anton Rodin made a nice play in the neutral zone up to Ben Hutton, who moved in on a 2-on-1 rush before feeding Horvat. The assist for Rodin was the first point of his NHL career in his second game.

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Colorado got back even at 6:53 when the league’s 29th-ranked power play snapped an 0-for-25 streak. Already down a man and with one defender minus a broken stick, Vancouver’s Markus Granlund couldn’t clear the zone, and the puck eventually found its way to Rantanen, who beat Miller upstairs through a screen for his sixth.

“We had to get our legs going,” said Baetschi. “I thought there were moments throughout the game where we really dominated, but we also took some penalties. That’s just part of it. Kind of took away our momentum, but we were able to come out with the win.”

Notes: Sutter had a goal waved off with the score 2-1 in the third after it was ruled the puck never crossed the line. … Rodin suited up in place of Alexandre Burrows (eye injury) alongside Horvat and Baertischi. The 26-year-old was the MVP of the Swedish Hockey League in 2015-16 despite having his season end in January after his knee was sliced by a skate blade. Rodin had two goals and three assists for the Canucks in five exhibition contests, but aggravated the injury and didn’t suit up for Vancouver until Dec. 23. He had been a healthy scratch the last three games. … The Canucks continue a three-game homestand Wednesday against Arizona. The Avalanche visit Calgary the same night.

 

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