VANCOUVER, B.C. – T.J. Galiardi’s Colorado Avalanche are well out of the playoff picture, so the 20-year-old focused on helping his hometown team instead.
Galiardi, a Calgary native, recorded his first career two-goal game as the injury-ravaged Avalanche dealt a blow to Vancouver’s hopes for home-ice advantage in the playoffs, beating the Canucks 4-1 Sunday.
“My dad is a big Calgary fan and he was saying, ‘Get the win for them,’ because obviously Vancouver is on their tail,” Galiardi said. “It’s kind of funny how it worked out that way”.
Galiardi opened scoring for Colorado, then made it 4-0 in the third period as the Avalanche (32-44-2) avoided their first nine-game losing streak in franchise history.
In seven career games, all three of Galiardi’s goals have come against the Canucks.
“I’ve had some chances against other teams, but I was just lucky enough to get a couple tonight,” Galiardi said. “Obviously you’ve got to be grateful to score on a guy like (Roberto) Luongo two times”.
Ben Guite and Milan Hejduk also scored and Peter Budaj made 20 saves as the rested Avalanche, who hadn’t played since Wednesday, controlled the entire game.
Pavol Demitra scored late and a shaky Luongo made 22 saves for Vancouver (42-27-10), which is slumping at a bad time.
The Canucks have lost three in a row and failed to move past idle Calgary for first place in the Northwest Division and third place in the Western Conference. The teams are tied with 94 points, but the Flames have a game in hand and hold the first tiebreaker with more victories.
“In everybody’s mind, this was a game that would put us one step closer to a championship in our division and possibly home ice,” said Canucks coach Alain Vigneault. “We didn’t play very well. They played a strong game defensively and they were the better team tonight.”
This game was supposed to be easy pickings for the Canucks, who were hoping to rebound after a 5-3 loss in Edmonton on Saturday.
Not only were the Avalanche missing top forwards Joe Sakic (back, fingers), Paul Stastny (foot) and Ryan Smyth (hand), they dressed four rookie defencemen – Aaron McKenzie, Ray Macias, Mike Vernace and Derek Peltier – who had played a combined 14 career NHL games prior to Sunday.
But it was the Avalanche who looked like a savvy, veteran team heading for the playoffs.
They controlled play for the majority of the game by clogging up the neutral zone and sacrificing their bodies in their own zone. The Avalanche finished with 21 blocked shots compared to two for Vancouver.
“We’ve been working on getting in the right position and blocking shots, and we did a good job of that tonight,” said veteran defenceman Scott Hannan, who was impressed with the play of the four new blue-liners.
“They played with a lot of poise right from the start. They play well, move the puck well, read the ice well. They’re easy to play with.”
The Avalanche led 1-0 after the first period thanks to Galiardi.
After some sloppy play in the Vancouver zone, Galiardi pounced on a loose puck in the slot and ripped a shot past Luongo on the glove side at 7:32.
Guite extended the lead 7:44 into the second frame, taking a feed from Wojtek Wolski and firing a low shot through Luongo’s legs.
Hejduk made it 3-0 five minutes into the third, picking off an Alex Edler pass and beating Luongo low on the glove side.
Galiardi capped his team’s scoring late in the period, whacking Hejduk’s pass behind Luongo, who has allowed 13 goals in his last three starts.
Luongo wasn’t the only Canuck who had trouble.
His teammates had a hard time completing passes, let alone mounting a threatening offensive attack – and their defence was just as spotty. On Colorado’s first goal, defencemen Kevin Bieksa and Shane O’Brien tried to cover the same man along the boards. Not only did they fail to thwart the centring pass, both fell to the ice.
“We’re just not sharp,” said Canucks forward Alex Burrows. “We didn’t move the puck crisply. We didn’t support the puck carrier the right way. We made a few mistakes and they ended up in the back of our net”.
When Vancouver did break through Colorado’s neutral-zone trap, Budaj was in the right position. He foiled Steve Bernier on an in-close one-timer late in the second frame, then blocked a Burrows slapshot.
He also had some luck, as Daniel Sedin hit the crossbar with the score 2-0 early in the third.
Demitra, with his 20th of the season, finally got to Budaj with 4:38 remaining by one-timing a rebound past his glove.
Notes: The Canucks had a moment of silence before the game for Carly Bragnalo, 27, the fiancee of forward Taylor Pyatt who was killed in a car accident in Jamaica on Thursday. … Luongo turned 30 on Saturday. … Colorado improved to 20-0-1 when leading after two periods. … Canucks centre Henrik Sedin had his seven-game point streak (five goals, nine assists) snapped.