VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Canucks finally stopped working overtime.
Jannik Hansen snapped a 1-1 tie late in the third period Wednesday night and Vancouver went on to a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
Hansen’s goal didn’t come until there was only 6:29 remaining, and it looked like the Canucks were going past regulation time for the ninth time in their last 11 games.
“Now we get off a little earlier than normal,” Hansen said after scoring his first game-winner of the season, and his first goal in 13 games. “It’s nice to only have to play 60 (minutes).”
Hansen got into open ice to the left of backup netminder Semyon Varlamov and blasted a shot over his shoulder.
Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo, who made 29 saves including a late close-in stop off Paul Stastny, was equally relieved after his last six starts went beyond regulation.
“After the second (period) I was already getting mentally ready for the shootout,” Luongo said.
“I was thinking about the shooters, the whole thing, but it was nice to get one there in regulation.”
The Canucks have found a comfort level in their latest run of tight games.
“We were patient,” Luongo said. “We didn’t force things.
“We waited for them to make a mistake and we capitalized on that big one that they had there.”
The mistake was a turnover after Cody Hodgson won a face-off in the Colorado zone.
“It started with a kind of set face-off play there where Cody wins it back and moves it to (defenceman) Sami (Salo) and over to (Chris Higgins),” Hansen said of his 14th goal of the campaign.
“There’s kind of a battle, the puck bounces a little bit in the middle. I tried to get open and Cody’s able to find me and I’ve just got to put it behind (Varlamov).”
Canuck coach Alain Vigneault said pairing Hansen with Higgins and Hodgson made the Dane more involved than he had been in recent games.
“When he’s really assertive and aggressive on the puck and real hard on the forecheck, he creates turnovers, he gets under people’s skin, he brings that energy that’s real helpful to our team,” Vigneault said.
“And it’s funny how things go, when you get a little more involved you find a way to contribute offensively and that’s what happened tonight with a big goal from him.”
David Booth opened the scoring for Vancouver 13 seconds into the game and Alex Burrows ended it into an empty net.
The Canucks haven’t lost to Colorado in regulation time since Nov. 1, 2009, going 13-0-2 in that span.
Erik Johnson, who had only one goal in his first 50 games this season, scored his second in two nights for the Avs by burying a clever pass from Milan Hejduk into a wide-open net.
Vancouver (36-15-6) again closed to within two points of Western Conference-leading Detroit with their eighth win in 11 games and points in the three losses beyond 60 minutes.
The Avalanche (28-26-4) ended a string of getting at least one point in four straight games and remain three points out of the last playoff berth in the West.
Colorado lost starting goalie J.S. Giguere late in the first period as well as winger T.J. Galiardi. Giguere tweaked a groin while Galiardi had a torso injury.
“I thought we regrouped, we dug in,” said coach Joe Sacco. “We faced a little bit of adversity there but I liked the way our guys responded being shorthanded on the bench tonight.”
Stastny said Varlamov responded well to the challenge of entering the game cold.
“He made some big-time stops for us to keep us in the game in the second and the third,” said Stasny, who tested Luongo five times. “He was definitely the bright spot for us tonight.”
Former Canuck Shane O’Brien said losses to divisional rivals are costing the Avs.
“If we look back here and end up coming up a little bit short for the playoffs, obviously you look inside your division, you can’t have that bad of a record,” O’Brien said.
“For whatever reason we can’t find a way to get it done against this (Northwest) division.”
Booth ignited the Canucks with his third goal in three games but the Avalanche pushed back in the first period and carried momentum into the second.
“It was big to get one early and then Jannik—what a shot there—saved us from playing an extra five minutes,” said Booth who drove to the net to backhand Mason Raymond’s pass over Giguere’s glove.
Cody McLeod of the Avalanche and Canuck forward Byron Bitz fought when Vancouver won 3-2 in a shootout in Denver on Feb. 4 and the pair had a brief rematch in the first period.
Notes: Hejduk played his 968th game for Colorado, moving into second on the club’s all-time games-played list behind the retired Joe Sakic of suburban Burnaby … Hejduk turned 36 on Tuesday … Colorado centre Matt Duchene is practising with the team but missed his 19th game with a right knee injury … Higgins returned to the Vancouver lineup after missing six games because of an adverse reaction to medication prescribed for a bacterial infection … the Avs complete their three-game Canada swing Friday in Edmonton and Sunday in Winnipeg.