The Vancouver Canucks are on top of the NHL because they play so well when they’re behind.
Alex Burrows tied it midway through the third period, Henrik Sedin put Vancouver ahead 2:18 later and the Canucks came from behind to clinch a playoff spot with a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night.
It was the second time in three games Vancouver has rallied from an early 2-0 deficit.
“It’s huge,” Henrik Sedin said. “We’ve been good this year about not panicking when we’re down. We’re playing our game. We know we’re going to get chances.”
Henrik added a second goal into an empty net with 1:14 left as the NHL-leading Canucks won their seventh straight game to become the first team to secure a playoff berth.
His twin brother Daniel set up the tying and go-ahead goals to extend his lead in the NHL scoring race with 92 points. The win also extended the Canucks win streak to seven games, wrapping up the Northwest Division—and with it a top-three playoff seeding in the Western Conference.
“That’s a goal we set before the season,” Henrik said. “To win it this early feels good. We’ve got more goals going forward here so we can’t sit on it.”
Henrik leads the league in assists and is now tied for second in scoring with 86 points.
“Henrik thinks I’m the shooter, but he can shoot too,” Daniel said. “I wish he would do it more often, but that’s the way it is. He’s a great passer.”
Elsewhere in the NHL it was: Toronto 3 Carolina 1; Detroit 3 Washington 2; and Anaheim 2 St. Louis 1.
At Vancouver, Maxim Lapierre also scored and rookie Cory Schneider made 27 saves to help Vancouver wrap up the Northwest Division, and with it a top-three playoff seeding in the Western Conference.
Daniel Sedin added two assists to extend his lead in the NHL scoring race with 92 points. He set up Burrows atop the crease to jam the puck in midway through the period and made a blind drop pass to twin brother Henrik, who snapped the winning goal through a screen and goalie Brian Elliott.
Erik Johnson and Matt Duchene scored goals 1:27 apart in the first period as Colorado lost its ninth straight game (0-8-1), and now has just one win in the last 20 (1-17-2).
“When we get into certain situations we are fragile at times,” Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. “We got caught on our heels a little bit in the third and you have to give Vancouver some credit for that. They’re a high-power team and their best players made plays when they needed them.”
The Avalanche got top centre Paul Stastny back after missing the last game with a hurt back, and puck-moving defenceman Jean-Michael Liles returned after sitting out two games with a leg injury. But they spent most of the second half of the game relying on Elliott, who finished with 36 saves.
Despite that, Elliott was unable to secure his first win in six appearances in the Colorado crease since being acquired from Ottawa for goalie Craig Anderson on Feb. 18, falling to 0-5-1.
Elliott was at his best as the Avalanche was outshot 15-5 in the second period, allowing only Lapierre’s goal and making a couple of big saves on one-time chances for Manny Malhotra and Raffi Torres. He sprawled across to rob Christian Ehrhoff on a backdoor one-timer 2:28 into the third. But he had little chance on the final two goals after the Canucks rallied quickly after Colorado captain Adam Foote left the game limping from a Ryan Kesler shot off the foot.
The Canucks lost Malhotra early in the second period after being hit in the eye by a puck. Malhotra dropped to the ice leaving a trail of blood, but skated quickly to the medical room on his own.
“I’m assuming because there was blood in his eye and they wanted to make sure,” Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said, when asked why a hospital visit was necessary. “He was taken there by our doctor and they are checking him over now. I don’t think anybody should speculate one way or the other.”
Liles assisted on Johnson’s power play goal midway through the first period, but most of the credit belonged to Ryan O’Reilly and David Jones for a double screen that prevented Schneider from seeing the glove-side point shot. Duchene ended a 10-game goal drought a couple shifts later with a centring pass to Mark Oliver that went in off the skate of Canucks defenceman Sami Salo.
At Raleigh, N.C., defenceman Dion Phaneuf had two power-play goals and added an assist, and rookie James Reimer made 36 saves in Toronto’s victory over Carolina.
At Detroit, Henrik Zetterberg scored his second goal of the game with 10:07 remaining, and the Red Wings snapped Washington’s nine-game winning streak.
At Anaheim, Calif., Jason Blake scored two goals, Ray Emery made 30 saves in his first start for Anaheim, and the Ducks beat St. Louis to climb into an eighth-place tie with Calgary in the Western Conference.