Avs send Canucks closer to early summer with OT win

Canucks right wing Jannik Hansen (36) battles Avalanche defenceman Erik Johnson (6) during third...

Canucks right wing Jannik Hansen (36) battles Avalanche defenceman Erik Johnson (6) during third period action in Denver on Thursday, March 27, 2014. (Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports)

Michael Kelly, The Sports Xchange

, Last Updated: 2:12 AM ET

DENVER - The Colorado Avalanche took a step closer to their first postseason berth in four years.

The Vancouver Canucks moved closer to an early summer.

Defenceman Tyson Barrie scored 55 seconds into overtime and the Avalanche beat Vancouver 3-2 on Thursday night, dealing the Canucks' playoff chances a serious blow. They are five points behind Phoenix for the last wild card spot with seven games to play.

"We still think we have a chance," said right winger Zack Kassian, who had a goal in the loss. "Some of you might think we're crazy but we still think we have a chance. None of us are going to quit."

Centre Matt Duchene had a goal and an assist and left winger Gabriel Landeskog also scored for Colorado, which won two straight. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov made 29 saves to record his 36th win of the season for the Avalanche, who need one point Saturday to reach their first playoffs since 2009-10.

"We know we're close to clinching and we want to keep trying to push and trying to finish ahead of Chicago," Barrie said.

The Avalanche came into Thursday with a chance to officially clinch a playoff berth, but the Coyotes' shootout win in New Jersey spoiled any celebration. Still, they moved to within one point of Chicago for second place in the Central Division, with Colorado having a game in hand. The Blackhawks were blanked by the Boston Bruins on Thursday.

"That's huge for us," Duchene said. "We want to finish as high as possible."

Colorado has 98 points, its most since recording 100 in the 2003-04 season. The team's 46 wins is the most since the Avalanche won 52 in 2000-01.

Barrie scored the game winner, his 10th of the season, when he redirected a pass from Duchene past goaltender Eddie Lack. It was his third overtime goal of the season, tying the franchise single-season mark set by David Jones three years ago.

"I don't know what it is," Barrie said. "I must be lucky."

Lack finished with 25 saves for the Canucks, who had their three-game winning streak snapped.

Defenceman Yannick Weber also scored for Vancouver.

The Canucks picked up three big wins in a week to stay in the hunt for one of the last wild-card spots. Since going 5-16-3 to start January, Vancouver played steadier and finishes the season with six of its last seven at home.

"We've been positive right on through. Just talking to them, we're fine," Vancouver coach John Tortorella said. "We're fine in our room; we're going to keep on playing."

The Canucks were already missing centre Henrik Sedin (leg injury) when defenceman Kevin Bieksa went to the dressing room late in the second period after taking a big hit from Landeskog along the boards. He returned in the third period but only logged 2:35 of ice time in two shifts.

"Not sure. He's just too sore," Tortorella said when asked how his defenceman is feeling. "We'll know more tomorrow."

Play got a little chippy at times. Duchene nearly went to blows with Vancouver centre Ryan Kesler at one point, and later left winger Jamie McGinn got in Kesler's face.

Duchene said his scuffle with Kesler was a long time coming.

"The last four years every time I skate behind the net after a whistle (Kesler) comes and hits me. So I hit him back and he didn't like it very much," Duchene said. "Fifth year in the league I'm not going to back down. That's his game, he's a great hockey player, he's a big two-way guy and he has a little bit of an edge to him. I don't think you're going to see us fight any time soon, but I'm not going to back down."

Things did not start well for Colorado, which took three penalties in the first period. The Canucks took advantage on the second power play when Weber scored midway through the frame.

The Avalanche were able to tie it on Duchene's 23rd goal at 15:40 of the first, and Landeskog gave them a 2-1 lead with his 24th at 8:58 of the second.

The Canucks got even when Kassian scored with 1:22 left before the second intermission.

Colorado failed to score on two power play chances in the third.

NOTES: Avalanche D Erik Johnson was in the lineup after missing the morning skate with flu-like symptoms. He was questionable for the game but felt well enough to play. ... Vancouver C Henrik Sedin missed his second straight game with a left leg injury suffered in Sunday's win over Buffalo. Sedin did not make the Canucks' two-game road trip that started Wednesday in Minnesota. ... Avalanche C John Mitchell missed his fourth straight game with a back injury. Mitchell has made progress and could play Saturday against San Jose. ... Thursday was the completion of the 16th back-to-back set for the Canucks. They have one more, which closes out the regular season.


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